American Beauty ended with several juxtapositions, which begs the question, whether it was a happy ending or a sad ending. Every viewer was left wondering if there had been a resolution to a conflict, or the rise of more conflicts. Allow me to break this down for you.
Happy Ending - Lester Burnham dies, and in his last moments he is rather relieved to know that his daughter and his wife are finally happy now, after a prolonged period of his inability to communicate with them. He finally gets to be happy himself, freeing himself of all forms of anxieties, sexual repressions and so forth. Ricky even embraces the moments after his death, seeing the unforgettable smile on Lester's face.
Sad Ending - Some important characters are extremely unhappy, if not utterly traumatized. Carolyn screams in agony, knowing that she has screwed up badly and has lost her entire life. Ricky's dad has returned to a state of homosexual repression. Janie is probably unable to head for NY with Ricky, because of this incident. Angela has lost the only man she fell in love with.
Now, my question is - What did the film want us to feel, or take in. Did it intend a happy ending or a sad ending?