Director: George Clooney
Stars: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Karimah Westbrook, Noah Jupe
Released: 24th November 2017 (UK)
Reviewer: Luke Walkley
George Clooney’s ‘Suburbicon’ is an oddity. It’s essentially two films existing side by side, yet never quite meeting. The problem is neither of the ‘films’ are good enough to exist on their own.
On one hand we have the story of Gardner Lodge (Damon) and his wife Rose and sister-in-law Maggie (both Moore) get caught up in a home-invasion gone-wrong and soon find themselves in over their heads when insurance agent Bud Cooper (Isaacs) begins to investigate the case.
Then we have the Mayers family, who become the first black family in the idyllic neighbourhood of Suburbicon. Their arrival sparks anger in the white-only ‘utopia’ and tensions rise towards moments that aren’t far removed from the scenes we saw not too long ago in Charlottesville.
Suburbicon suffers from an identity crisis throughout, which is likely caused by the watering down and re-hashing of the Coen Brothers’ original script. There are elements of black comedy so widely associated with the Coen’s style, yet the constant tonal shift is frustrating. The fluctuating tone also means that you’re never really sure whether to laugh (on the odd occasion the opportunity presents) or sort of let the moment pass by as part of the narrative.
There’s almost no connection to the characters, Damon’s Gardner lacks any sort of anti-hero appeal. Moore is uninspired and the whole thing is just a little odd, at it’s worst it’s downright creepy, but unintentionally so. The narrative attempts a weird switch halfway through into telling the story through the eyes of the son, Nicky (Jupe), yet there is still no relationship built with the audience.
The white-supremacist goings on in the other half of the film are more interesting and yet barely touched upon in any detail. Mr Mayers has no dialogue and a scene involving Mrs Mayers being told to pay $20 each for milk and bread is too quickly over without engaging any conflict, which, for a scene seemingly designed to evoke an emotional reaction isn’t effective enough.
The strongest performances, despite the three a-listers involved come from the youngsters Jupe as Nicky and Tony Espinosa who plays the son of the Mayers’ Andy. The moments they spend on screen are often the most engaging.
The question is then, what could have Suburbicon been had the Coen’s been at the helm? Clooney isn’t a bad director by any means, it’s just the final version of the story isn’t strong enough to hinge an entire movie on thematically. What we’re left with is a drama that lacks substance and a black comedy where all the humorous moments where ruined by the trailers.
Suburbicon is a missed opportunity, it’s political undertones are exactly that – undertones. Which considering the real-life story it was based on, is a massive shame they were explored in greater depth throughout. Clooney’s attempt at highlighting the racist troubles that go on in middle-class white suburbia is a timely one, but it’s a point that is lost in all the commotion.