American Beauty, a story about Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), his family, and his neighbors, is both funny and tragic. In addition to a loveless marriage, an unhappy teenage daughter, and a dull, boring, routine job, Lester is worried about aging. His idea of the "ideal" life turned out far from what he expected. From the outside, all seems "ideal" from a nice big house, to the well-tended red roses, and the white picket fence. But on the inside is a loveless marriage, a distant relationship with his daughter, and a depressed middle aged father, Lester Burnham. Lester, a magazine advertising employee and his wife Carolyn, a realtor, cannot stand each other and their daughter, Jane has no desire to be with either of them.
Two gay men, who are thoughtful and kind, live on one side of the Burnhams; on the other side, Ricky Fitz lives with another version of disturbed parents: an abused and deeply depressed mother and a retired, Marine father who bullies his son, is expressively homophobic, and collects guns and Nazi era memorabilia.
In the opening scene, Lester's narrating voice tells us that he will be dead in a year. He is very unhappy with the way his life is being spent and the way his family has turned out. He decides that he needs to make changes in order to be fulfilled. His scripted family role is cast aside when he goes to a dinner party for his wife's job. This is where he meets his newly moved in neighbor Ricky Fitz, a young man around his daughters age that is catering at the party. He starts talking and after a while finds himself in the back alley of the building smoking pot with his young new friend. As the night ends...