Plot Outline of “American Beauty”

 

Promotional poster of the movie, "American Beauty"

 

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Beat Acts Beat Description Storylines
1
1
Introduce all the characters and state their goals.
In Ricky’s bedroom, Jane tells Ricky she needs a real father who doesn’t perv out on her friends. Ricky offers to kill Jane’s father (Lester). Ricky
Jane
(Lester )
2 Fly over view of Lester’s neighborhood. VO of Lester saying this is his neighborhood. He’s 42 years old and will be dead in less than a year. Lester
3 In Lester’s house, Lester wakes up to an annoying alarm clock and then masturbates in the shower. VO of Lester saying he’s already dead inside, and masturbating will be the high point of his day. Lester
4 Lester looks out his window to see his wife (Carolyn) working in her garden. VO of Lester saying Carolyn is a consumer whore who is overly concerned with appearances. Lester
Carolyn
5 Lester looks out his window and sees Jim #1 and Jim #2. They are his gay neighbors who spoil their barking dog. Lester
Jim #1
Jim #2
6 Lester watches Carolyn make small talk with Jim #1. VO of Lester saying he and his wife used to be happy. Lester
Carolyn
Jim #1
Jim #2
7 Jane is sitting at her desk looking at breast implant websites. A car horn honks, and she grabs her backpack and leaves. VO of Lester saying this is his daughter, and she is a typical angry, insecure, confused teen. Lester says life won’t get better for her. Lester
Jane
8 Jane, Lester and Carolyn get in a car. Carolyn blames Lester for making them late. VO of Lester saying his family thinks he’s a loser, and they’re right. Lester
Carolyn
Jane
9 Lester sleeps in the car as Carolyn drives. VO of Lester saying he’s lost something. He doesn’t know what it is, but it’s never too late to get it back. Lester
Carolyn
Jane
10 Lester works at his day job. He’s pushed around and miserable. Lester
Customer
(Brad )
11 Brad calls Lester into his office to tell him the company is downsizing, and everyone needs to write a description of their duties and how they contribute to the company. Brad
Lester
12
2
Setup Carolyn meeting Buddy, Jane meeting Ricky and Lester meeting Angela.
Driving home, Carolyn tells Lester he needs to write the essay Brad asked for. Carolyn notices they have new neighbors moving in. Carolyn says she could have sold the house quicker if their previous neighbors had used her as their realtor instead of Buddy, “The Real Estate King.” Lester
Carolyn
(Buddy )
13 Lester, Carolyn and Jane eat dinner at home. Lester attempts to complain about his employer downsizing, but Jane complains that her parents never talk to her. So she has no reason to care about their problems now. Lester
Carolyn
Jane
(Brad )
14 Lester tries to apologize to Jane, but she doesn’t accept his apology. Lester
Jane
15 From his window next door, Ricky films Jane washing dishes. Ricky
Jane
16 Carolyn arrives at a run-down house that she’s trying to sell. Across the street is a nice house for sale by Buddy. Carolyn sees his real estate sign, and it makes her jealous and angry. Carolyn
(Buddy )
17 Montage of Carolyn cleans and preps the house she’s trying to sell while reciting the mantra, “I will sell this house today.” Carolyn
18 Montage of Carolyn unsuccessfully attempting to sell the house to disinterested home buyers. Carolyn
Customers
19 After failing to sell the house, Carolyn breaks down and cries and slaps herself in the face repeatedly. She regains her composure and walks out of the house looking confident. Carolyn
20 At a high school basketball game Angela and Jane talk about how much they don’t want their parents to participate in their lives. Angela
Jane
21 Lester and Carolyn drive to the high school basketball game and discuss how much Jane hates both of them and doesn’t want them to participate in her life. Lester
Carolyn
(Jane )
22 Lester and Carolyn arrive at the basketball game in time for the half time show where the cheerleaders (including Angela and Jane) perform. Lester is mesmerized by Angela. Lester
Carolyn
Jane
Angela
23 After the basketball game, Lester chats with Angela and Jane. It’s obvious Lester is attracted to Angela. This displeases Jane, but Angela thinks it’s cute. Lester
Carolyn
Jane
Angela
24 Laying in bed, Lester thinks about Angela. VO of Lester saying he feels like he’s waking up from a 20 year coma. Lester
Angela
Carolyn
25 Angela and Jane sit in a car smoking a join. Angela says she doesn’t mind Lester perving out on her, because it’s verification she has what it takes to be a model, and there’s nothing worse in life than being ordinary. Angela
Jane
(Lester )
26 Angela drops Jane off at her house. While walking to her door, she sees Ricky watching her from his porch next door. Angela insults him and then goes inside and smiles, secretly happy for the attention. Angela
Jane
Ricky
27
3
Lester wants Angela. Ricky and Jane want each other. Jane wants her dad to be better. Angela wants attention. Colonel hates gays. Carolyn meets Buddy, and Lester meets Ricky.
The next morning, Lester sneaks into Jane’s room and steals Angela’s phone number from Jane’s address book. Lester calls Angela and then hangs up the phone, afraid to speak. As Jane returns to her room from the shower, Lester flees. Angela calls Jane back and they deduce Lester had tried to call Angela, which Jane says is gross. Lester
Jane
Angela
28 From his window, Ricky films Jane as his mother (Barbara) calls him to breakfast. Ricky goes down to breakfast. He reminds Barbara he doesn’t eat bacon, and his dad (Colonel) says the world is going to hell. Then the doorbell rings. Ricky
Jane
Colonel
Barbara
(Jim #1 )
(Jime #2 )
29 At the front door, Jim #1 and Jim #2 welcome Colonel and his family to the neighborhood. They reveal they’re gay lovers, which angers Colonel. Colonel
Jim #1
Jim #2
30 As Colonel drives Ricky to school, Colonel complains about gays. Ricky tries to defend them, but after Colonel loses his temper, Ricky expertly pretends to be/think the way Colonel wants him to. Colonel
Ricky
(Jim #1 )
(Jim #2 )
31 In the high school parking lot, Angela tells some girls she fucked a photographer to advance her modeling career. The girls call her a slut. Angela calls them normal spoiled suburban drones. They remind her she’s no different and walk away. Angela
School girls
Jane
32 Jane and Angela see Ricky arrive at school. Jane says Ricky is her creepy neighbor. Angela says she knew him at a previous school and that he was weird. Jane defends him, and then Angela accuses Jane of liking Ricky. Jane
Angela
Ricky
33 Ricky introduces himself to Jane and Angela. Jane is apprehensive. After he leaves Jane says his confidence must be fake, and Angela laments that he didn’t fawn over her. Ricky
Jane
Angela
34 Ricky, Barbara and Colonel watch TV like strangers. Barbara exhibits signs of dementia while Ricky and Colonel exhibit signs of hiding their true selves from each other. Ricky
Barbara
Colonel
35 Lester and Carolyn arrive at a large realtor party. Lester doesn’t want to be there, but Carolyn orders him to stay and pretend to be happy to help her keep up appearances. Lester
Carolyn
36 Carolyn and Lester run into Buddy and talk. Carolyn behaves fakely, and Lester reminds us he’s unmemorable. Lester is tired of acting fake and excuses himself to get a drink. Carolyn
Lester
Buddy
Buddy’s wife
37 At the bar, Lester orders a strong drink and looks disapprovingly at Carolyn fake-laughing with Buddy. Lester
Carolyn
Buddy
38 Wearing a catering uniform, Ricky approaches Lester and introduces himself as Lester’s neighbor. Then Ricky asks Lester if he wants to get high. Lester is intrigued. Ricky
Lester
39 Carolyn admits to Buddy that she’s in awe of him and asks Buddy on a professional lunch date. Buddy accepts. They both know the date will be more romantic than professional. Carolyn
Buddy
40 Outside, Ricky and Lester get high and discuss the movie, “Reanimator.” Ricky’s boss catches him not working and threatens to fire him. So Ricky quits his job nonchalantly. Lester is in awe of Ricky, who confesses his job is just a cover for selling drugs. Ricky
Lester
41 Carolyn finds Lester and tells him she’s ready to leave. Lester introduces Carolyn to Ricky. As Lester leaves, Ricky tells him he can buy more weed from him anytime. Carolyn
Lester
Ricky
42
4
Angela flirts with Lester, which makes him want to work out. Carolyn catches Lester jerking off to thinking about Angela, and Lester stands up for himself. Ricky films Lester but is interrupted when Colonel wants Ricky to take a drug test.
Angela and Jane watch TV at Jane’s house. They hear Carolyn and Lester at the front door, and Jane says they should hide in her room, but Angela says she wants to say hi to Lester. Angela
Jane
(Lester )
(Carolyn )
43 Angela flirts with Lester and touches his shoulder as she reaches past him to get a root beer out of the refrigerator. The touch has a profound impact on Lester, and he imagines kissing her. Angela
Lester
44 Jane and Carolyn enter the kitchen and interrupt Angela’s flirting. Jane asks Carolyn if Angela can spend the night, and Lester chokes on his root beer. Jane
Carolyn
Lester
Angela
45 In Jane’s bedroom, Jane apologizes for her embarrassing dad. Angela says Carolyn is worse because she’s so fake. This displeases Jane. Jane
Angela
(Lester )
(Carolyn )
46 Lester eavesdrops on Jane and Angela’s conversation. Angela says jokingly that she wants to fuck Lester and that if he got in a little better shape he’d be really hot. Lester
Angela
Jane
47 Jane and Angela hear a penny hit their window. They look outside to see Jane’s name spelled in fire on the driveway. Knowing Ricky did this, Angela teases Jane about what a creep Ricky is. Jane
Angela
Ricky
48 From his window, Ricky films Jane. Then he pans down and films Lester digging through his garage. Ricky
Jane
Lester
49 As Ricky continues to film Lester, Lester finds a pair of dumbells and removes his shirt and starts working out. Ricky
Lester
50 Colonel interrupts Ricky’s video recording to tell Ricky he needs to piss in a cup for a drug test. Ricky tells him he’ll do it tomorrow. After Colonel leaves, Ricky reveals he has a minifridge packed with full piss cups. Lester
Ricky
Colonel
51 Lester has a fantasy of Angela in a bathtub complimenting him on his body and asking him to have sex with her. Lester
Angelaa
52 In bed, Carolyn catches Lester masturbating and tries to shame him. Lester refuses to apologize and says he’s a new man who masturbates when he wants. Carolyn says she’s sexually frustrated too and will divorce Lester if he pushes her too hard. Lester threatens to take half of what she has in a divorce, and she sulks knowing he has more leverage than her. Carolyn
Lester
(Angela )
53
5
Lester tries to improve himself but earns Colonel’s distrust. Lester buys drugs from Ricky and blackmails his boss. Then Lester gets a new job. Carolyn has sex with Buddy. Ricky and Jane get closer.
The next morning, Lester joins Jim #1 and Jim #2 for a jog and tells them he wants to get in shape so he’ll look good naked. Lester
Jim #1
Jim #2
54 Colonel sees Lester running with Jim #1 and Jim #2. Colonel assumes Lester is gay too, and he’s upset with how many homosexuals are in the neighborhood. Colonel
Lester
Jim #1
Jim #2
55 As Lester returns from his jog, he introduces himself to Colonel and makes a poor impression. Lester tells Ricky to come over so he can give him a copy of “Reanimator,” which Colonel doesn’t realize is code for Lester wanting to buy some weed from Ricky. Colonel is unhappy. Lester
Colonel
Ricky
56 Lester follows Ricky into his bedroom, where Ricky tells Lester about having to take a drug test every 6 months. Ricky sells Lester an expensive bag of weed. Ricky says Colonel thinks he makes his money working catering jobs. Lester says, “Never underestimate the power of denial.” Lester
Ricky
(Colonel )
57 Lester is smoking pot and working out in his garage, which he has cleaned up and turned into a man cave. Carolyn catches him and shames him, but Lester is unapologetic. Lester
Carolyn
58 At work, Brad reads the description of Lester’s job that he’s written. The description is so brutally honest, it practically begs them to fire him, which Brad says is happening. Lester blackmails Brad with information of fraud so Brad will give him a year’s wages. Brad
Lester
59 Carolyn meets Buddy for their lunch date, and her attraction to him is palpable. Buddy says he’s in an unhappy marriage, but he fakes being happy because, “To be successful, one must project an image of success at all times.” Carolyn
Buddy
(Buddy’s wife )
(Lester )
60 After school, Jane and Angela catch Ricky filming a dead bird. Angela shames Ricky, but Jane volunteers to walk home with Ricky instead of riding with Angela. Angela is confused and angry. Jane
Angela
Ricky
61 Buddy fucks Carolyn in a motel. Buddy
Carolyn
62 Lester drives home from work elated. He stops at a burger chain to get some food and notices they’re hiring. Lester asks for an application saying he wants a job with as little responsibility as possible. Lester
Burger manager
63 Buddy and Carolyn lay in bed after sex. Carolyn says it was a great stress relief, and Buddy says the most empowering stress relief is shooting a gun, which he invites her to do with him at a gun range. Buddy
Carolyn
64 Jane and Ricky walk home and talk about death, which Ricky says is beautiful. Jane
Ricky
65 Ricky takes Jane to his house and introduces her to Barbara who apologizes for how messy their spotless house is. Ricky
Jane
Barbara
66 Ricky breaks into Colonel’s locked cabinet and shows Jane a Nazi plate. Then Ricky offers to show Jane the most beautiful thing he’s ever filmed. Ricky
Jane
(Colonel )
67 Ricky shows Jane a video of a plastic bag being blow in the wind. Ricky explains how it taught him there’s beauty and stories behind everything and there’s no need to be afraid of anything. Jane responds by kissing Ricky. Ricky
Jane
68
6
Lester fights with Carolyn. Jane fights with Carolyn. Colonel fights with Ricky. Carolyn fights with Lester, and Jane tells Ricky she wishes Lester was dead.
Jane, Carolyn and Lester eat dinner. Carolyn shames Lester for quitting his job and making her the sole bread winner. Lester stands up for himself and tells everyone to treat him with more respect. Jane
Carolyn
Lester
69 Later, Carolyn comes in Jane’s room to apologize to her. Jane says her parents are freaks, and Carolyn slaps her and tells her to be more appreciative. Then Carolyn runs away in shame. Carolyn
Jane
70 Jane looks out her window and sees Ricky has been video taping her. She gives him a strip show, which is interrupted by Colonel busting into Ricky’s room. Jane
Ricky
Colonel
71 Colonel beats Ricky for breaking into his cabinet and tells Ricky how important rules are. Ricky acts fake to appease his dad. Colonel almost shows real tenderness to Ricky but stops himself and leaves. Ricky cleans up from his beating nonchalantly. Colonel
Ricky
(Jane )
72 Carolyn fires a gun at a gun range, taking great pleasure from it. Carolyn
Buddy
73 Carolyn drives home from the gun range. She’s enjoying life until she pulls into the driveway and sees a classic muscle car in her driveway. Carolyn
(Lester )
74 Carolyn enters her living room and sees Lester happily playing with a remote control car and drinking a beer. Carolyn asks about the muscle car, and Lester said he bought it because he always wanted one and doesn’t need to ask permission. Lester accuses Carolyn of being joyless and asks where the old, fun Carolyn went. Lester and Carolyn start to kiss, but Carolyn stops him because Lester almost spilled beer on the couch. Lester rants about how objects aren’t life, but they’ve become more important to Carolyn than living. Carolyn runs out crying. Carolyn
Lester
75 In Ricky’s room, Ricky tries to record Jane. She says she’s insecure, and he says she’s beautiful. Then Ricky tells his backstory about how Colonel has been cruel to him, but he doesn’t hate his father. Carolyn says she hates her father because he’s not a role model and doesn’t give her structure. Plus, he’s a perv who cares more about her friends than her. Ricky jokingly offers to kill her dad for money, and Jane jokingly agrees. Then Ricky says they’re lucky to have found each other. Ricky
Jane
(Lester )
(Carolyn )
76
7
Jane calls out Lester on perving over Angela. Colonel believes he catches Lester and Ricky being gay. Lester catches Carolyn cheating with Buddy. Ricky and Angela go to Lester’s house.
Lester goes for a jog around his neighborhood listening to rock music on his headphones. He’s happier than he’s ever been. VO of Lester implying he’s going to die that die. Lester
77 Lester makes a shake in the kitchen happily. Carolyn and Jane enter in a rush to get the day started. Jane asks if Angela can spend the night and admits she hasn’t brought Angela around more often because of how Lester pervs on her. Lester says, “You better watch yourself, or you’re going to turn into a real bitch, just like your mother.” The girls leave crying and Lester is regretful. Lester
Carolyn
Jane
78 Ricky tells Colonel he’s riding to school with Jane and Carolyn. As Ricky gets in Carolyn’s car, Lester exits the front door and greets Ricky and tells him to call him. Colonel sees this and interprets it as gay. Ricky
Colonel
Jane
Carolyn
Lester
79 Colonel searches Ricky’s room and finds a video of Lester working out in his garage shirtless. This upsets Colonel. Colonel
Ricky
(Lester )
80 Working at the burger restaurant, Lester busts Carolyn cheating on him when she comes through the drive through with Buddy. Lester doesn’t act bothered, which frustrates Carolyn. She snaps at him, and he tells her she doesn’t ever get to tell him what to do again. Carolyn drives away crying. Lester
Carolyn
Buddy
Burger manager
81 Buddy breaks up with Carolyn because he doesn’t want her train wreck of a life tarnishing his reputation and thus his success. Carolyn cries and slaps herself in the face. Buddy
Carolyn
82 Lester works out in his garage. He’s proud of himself. He looks in his weed stash to get some and realizes it’s empty. He is upset about this. Lester
(Angela )
(Ricky )
83 As Ricky eats dinner with Colonel and Barbara, he gets a text from Lester saying he needs weed. Ricky tells Colonel he needs to run next door to give Jane a text book she forgot. Colonel is suspicious. Ricky
Colonel
Barbara
(Lester )
84 In Jane’s room, Angela asks Jane about her sex life with Ricky. Angela says Ricky isn’t a real man. Angela
Jane
(Ricky )
85 Colonel watches through a window and sees Ricky enter Lester’s garage. Through the garage window, Colonel sees Lester shirtless, which looks naked from Lester’s vantage. Colonel
Ricky
Lester
86 Ricky sells Lester a large bag of expensive weed. Lester asks Ricky to roll a joint for him, and he does. From Colonel’s point of view, it looks like Ricky is giving Lester a blow job.Jane and Angela pull into the driveway, and Ricky and Lester run off panicked. Colonel is very upset about this. Ricky
Lester
Jane
Angela
Colonel
87
8
Colonel kicks Ricky out of his house. Ricky begs Jane to run away with him. Jane jilts Angela. Colonel tries to kiss Lester and runs away in shame. Carolyn prepares to shoot Lester. Lester and Angela almost have sex. Colonel shoots Lester.
Angela and Jane enter Lester’s living room and meet Lester. Angela flirts with Lester, and he responds confidently, which makes Angela feel insecure. Then Angela and Jane go upstairs. Angela
Jane
Lester
88 In Ricky’s bedroom, Colonel catches Ricky with the money Lester gave him for weed. Colonel accuses Ricky of being a gay prostitute and threatens to kick him out and never talk to him again. Ricky says he’s a gay prostitute and calls his dad a sad old man. Colonel kicks him out. Ricky
Colonel
(Lester )
89 Ricky says bye to Barbara unceremoniously as he leaves the house. Then Colonel watches Ricky go to Lester’s house. Ricky
Barbara
Colonel
90 Carolyn sits in her car listening to a motivational tape telling her to take control of her life and choose not to be a victim. Carolyn
(Lester )
91 In Angela’s room, she and Jane talk about sex. Jane tells Angela not to have sex with her dad. They are interrupted by someone knocking on her bedroom door. Angela
Jane
(Lester )
92 Ricky enters Angela’s room and asks Angela to run away to New York with him. Angela calls Ricky a freak, and he says she’s a fake friend who is using Jane. Jane defends Ricky, and Angela accuses Jane of being ugly and then leaves angry. Ricky
Jane
Angela
93 Lester catches Colonel watching him do benchpresses in his garage. Colonel comes over to Lester’s garage, and Lester tries to dry him off and explain that he doesn’t care why his wife is away having sex with another man. Everything he says and does comes across as gay. Colonel kisses Lester, and Lester says he has the wrong idea. Colonel leaves in shame, anger and confusion. Lester
Colonel
94 Carolyn sits in her car holding her gun chanting, “I will not be a victim.” When she feels resolute enough, she drives off. Carolyn
(Lester )
95 Angela and Lester meet in Lester’s kitchen. Angela hits on him. Lester hits on her and says she’s beautiful. Angela says the worst thing in the world is to be ordinary, and Lester assures her she’s not. Then they kiss. Angela
Lester
96 Carolyn drives home chanting, “I will not be a victim” and “Lester, I have something to say to you.” Carolyn
Lester
97 In Lester’s living room, Angela and Lester lay on the couch enroute to sex. Lester
Angela
98 In Angela’s room, Angela says to Ricky that her parents will look for her when she runs away to New York. Ricky says his parents won’t look for him. Angela
Ricky
(Lester )
(Carolyn )
(Colonel )
(Barbara )
99 In Lester’s living room, Lester undresses Angela, and she admits she’s a virgin. Lester decides not to have sex with her, which makes her feel insecure. Lester tries unsuccessfully to comfort her. Lester
Angela
100 Carolyn pulls into their driveway. Carolyn
101 In Lester’s kitchen, Lester and Angela cool down. Lester asks Angela about Jane, and Jane says Angela is happy and in love. Angela asks Lester how he is, and he’s flattered by the fact she asked. Then he excuses himself to go to the bathroom feeling content with life. Lester
Angela
102 Walking through his living room, Lester pauses to look at a picture of his family. He smiles because he finally understands the profound, beautiful meaning of it all, through all the chaos and pain. Then someone puts a gun to his head and executes him. Lester
(Jane )
(Carolyn )
Colonel
103
9
Denouement
In Jane’s room, Ricky and Jane hear the gunshot. They run downstairs and find Lester’s dead body smiling contentedly. Jane
Ricky
Lester
104 Panning shot of the sky. VO of Lester saying the last moment of your life stretches on forever like a starry night sky. Lester begins listing his happiest memories that flashed before his eyes. Lester
105 Montage of Ricky, Angela, Jane and Carolyn hearing the gun shot that killed Lester. VO of Lester continuing listing his happiest memories that flashed before his eyes. Ricky
Angela
Jane
Carolyn

 

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