In life, everyone must make choices. Choices give an individual the freedom to decide the path which they will follow. In the movie American Beauty, each of the characters has a choice he or she needs to make. The main character, Lester Burnham, is faced with many choices that could either lead to his ultimate happiness or draw him further into his despair. Carolyn Burnham, Lester's wife, is faced with a loveless marriage that exists only because she does not possess the willingness to break the cycle. This cycle involves protecting their daughter by staying married. In reality, children of a marriage such as this are often the biggest victims of this sham. Jane Burnham is Lester and Carolyn's daughter. She is caught between the two of them, and her decision is to tune her parents out. Ricky Fitts, the boy next door, makes his choice of knowing when to cooperate with his father. Ricky's dad, Colonel Fitts, makes his choice of finally admitting of his sexual preference. Angela Hayes, Jane's friend, makes her choice of losing her virginity to Lester. Each character has to learn how to deal with his or her own problems. .
Lester Burnham is in a state of despair. Lester's dull and monotonous voice introduces the audience to his daily routine of life. At the age of 42 he has become sympathetic to everything. He realizes that his family life is the "pits" as he becomes aware that both his wife and daughter consider him a gigantic loser. He feels they are right about this. He believes he has lost something and that he did not always feel this sedated. Lester's disheartenment is symbolic in the car scene. Lester sits slouched down in the back seat with a look of emptiness while his daughter sits up front next to his wife, who is driving the car. Carolyn drives the car just as she drives the family, especially, Lester. She has evolved into the decision-maker and leader of the Burnham family.