American Beauty & Desperate Housewives

‘Suburban Dreams and Nightmares’
To examine the way the suburbs have been portrayed since the 1950’s, I have chosen to explore the ‘Welcome to Suburbia’ scene in ‘American Beauty’ (from: 00:40–2:35, into the film) and the opening scene of the pilot of ‘Desperate Housewives’ (from: 00:00-01:15, into the episode).   I have chosen these two scenes because they are very similar to each other and show how composers use a range of techniques to engage the audience and create meaning.
‘American Beauty’, directed by Sam Mendes, is a film that is set in America, in an ordinary suburban like neighbourhood, following the ordinary life of Lester Burnham, who is living the typical ‘American Dream’. He appears to have a great job, big house with an immaculate garden full of luscious red roses, a loving wife and daughter and even a white picket fence, but it’s not until we ‘look closer’ that we see that this is not what it seems.
The film begins in the same manner that it ends, with a monologue by Lester.   In this initial speech by Lester we are informed of the normality and comical misery of his current existence. Lester's sarcastic and indifferent tone is complimented by the beginning of the movie's soundtrack composed by Thomas Newman. This cheerful and almost tribal sounding portion of the score echoes Lester's tone with a sort of irony that seems to enhance the sadly humorous nature of his life.   At the close of this monologue Lester describes himself as feeling "sedated", and again the deep sounds of this initial piece in the soundtrack complimented by a combination of piano, drums, and various strings, confirms the strangeness and numbness of his sensation.
Visual techniques are a constant feature in the ‘welcome to suburbia’ scene of ‘American Beauty’. Once we take a closer look into his home, through his red door that symbolises hidden truths behind the facade of everyday life, we realise his ‘perfect life’ is actually one filled with misery as he claims to be...