American Beauty is a 1999 American drama film written by Alan Ball and directed by Sam Mendes in his directorial debut. Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, an advertising executive who has a midlife crisis when he becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter's best friend, played by Mena Suvari. Annette Bening stars as Lester's materialistic wife, Carolyn, and Thora Birch plays their insecure daughter, Jane. Wes Bentley, Chris Cooper, and Allison Janney also feature. Academics have described the film as a satire of American middle-class notions of beauty and personal satisfaction; further analysis has focused on the film's explorations of romantic and paternal love, sexuality, materialism, self-liberation, and redemption.