American Beauty -- Kevin Spacey's Killer Frames Spacey's Daughter for the Murder
American Beauty starts with the main character, Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), carelessly spoiling the rest of the film by revealing that he dies at the end. However, the movie does keep you in suspense about who is responsible for Lester's death. The opening scenes seem to imply that Lester's teenage daughter, Jane, is planning to murder Lester with her boyfriend, Ricky, as he videotapes her.
This was the 1999 equivalent of typing "how to commit murder" into Google.
Of course, it turns out that Jane and Ricky were just kidding around, and at the end, it's revealed that Ricky's closeted gay father shot Lester in the head. Case closed.
The Deleted Backstory
Ricky's father originally had an even more important role in the movie -- he frames Jane and Ricky for the murder he committed. It turns out that keeping a tape of you and your boyfriend discussing a murder in the house where the actual murderer lives isn't such a good idea after all. In Alan Ball's first draft of the American Beauty screenplay, the story starts with Ricky and Jane going on trial for killing Lester.
The movie was originally supposed to have the framing device of the sensational trial of Jane and Ricky. We later find out that in order to take suspicion off himself, Ricky's father turned in the incriminating videotape where Ricky and Jane joked about killing Lester, and everyone ate it up.
But first he had to sift through 100 hours of footage of a plastic bag floating around.
After this tape is shown in court, Ricky and Jane do not have a chance. At the end, they are both found guilty and sent to prison. The movie would have ended with the still unbearably pretentious Ricky singing to himself in his cell as he admires the beauty of a dripping faucet. Yeah, OK, that kid deserved to go to jail.
According to Ball, all of these murder trial scenes were shot but ultimately cut out, since everyone felt that this ending was just too cynical. In the film, we never find out if Ricky's father is going to get away with the murder and ... hey, wait a minute, who's the actor who played him again?
Goddammit, Chris Cooper, you just can't help yourself when tapes are involved, can you?