THE STORY – Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic, suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns — the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit and violence.
THE CAST – Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe & Oscar Isaac
THE TEAM – George Clooney (Director/Writer) Joel Coen, Ethan Coen & Grant Heslov (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 105 Minutes
By Nguyen L.
George Clooney showed earlier promise as a director with films such as “Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind” and “Good Night And Good Luck.” Since then he has only directed one other decent film, “The Ides Of March.” When he’s in buffoonery-mode as he has been with “Leatherheads,” “The Monuments Men” and now “Suburbicon,” there are other factors at play working against him to deliver a true crowd pleaser that works both with audiences and with critics. In his latest film “Suburbicon” he attempts to tell a relevant and timely story, with dark humor, goofy humor and a bit of pathos, but the pieces don’t ever come together to form a clear and sufficient whole.
“Suburbicon,” as helmed by director George Clooney (Who writes and directs but does not star) has one fatal flaw: It can’t find the proper ending. The revival of a 31-year-old Coen Brothers’ script from George Clooney and his regular collaborator Grant Heslov, sees two plotlines living on common ground yet failing to bond. While the film focuses on what the promos underline – skittish Gardner Lodge’s (Matt Damon) descent after the mob’s “collection department” murders his disabled wife Rose (Julianne Moore) in front of their son Nicky (Noah Jupe) and sister-in-law Margaret (Moore, too) – it begins with the truth-based plight of the freshly unpacked and right-next-door Myers family – consisting of Daisy (Karimah Westbrook), her husband William (Leith M. Burke) and their son Andy (Tony Espinosa) – and unwillingly has the family town salivating for racially motivated mayhem.
The enticing nature of this “Get Out” meets “Fargo” pitch isn’t there since Clooney can’t make it visible. As the perspectives switch between the households so too does the tone, which makes the experience jarring when right after a “bumbling Damon” episode it’s back to another tragic portrayal of an intolerant America of yesteryear. Rinse and repeat. The back-and-forth does align with the film’s property-centric vision – more than one house is viewed to have the full view of the neighborhood – but that’s incidental. What “Suburbicon” needs, or should have done, is to have both households under the same roof. It does that in two ways, having Nicky befriending Andy and paralleling the level of violence besieging the Myers to that inside of the Lodges’ walls, though none is a thread strong enough to bind the tales.
And so, dynamite as the starry cast may be, the leads don’t make an impression. Damon’s character is ill-suited for the hurting business, and where that should be a trove for laughs, all we get are snickers. The Moore-on-Moore act is just adequate. On the other hand, Oscar Isaac sets off fireworks as a shady insurance investigator, always making the atmosphere as lively as the lurid ‘50s Americana colors adorning the scene or Alexandre Desplat’s jazzy-if-incessant score. Another bright spot in the cast is also found in an expressive Jupe, whose character is literally the brightness among the film’s looming, albeit undernourished, menace.
Exploring the “American Beauty,” or a facet of it in which well-dressed bad apples earning free passes due to their pretty appearances, should unearth entertainment with some cause for introspection – even if the approach is half-laugh/half-unnerve. “Suburbicon” could have been an audible success in this regard, what with the real world so eager to revive history’s dismal pages in every area possible, especially the treatment of minorities. You’ll probably want to re-watch to “Fargo,” it seems, for a legitimate homespun crime story rather than sitting through “Suburbicon” again and to hopefully wash out the disappointment of yet another George Clooney directorial effort.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – The film’s aesthetics in art direction, costume design etc. The story, despite the setting, features timely matters.
THE BAD – Clooney can’t make the threads come together. Lukewarm efforts from leads. Score, though smooth, is incessant.