Suburbicon first began life as George Clooney and his writing and producing partner Grant Heslov were working on a script based on events that unfolded in 1957 Levittown, PA, about a black family who moved into a previously all-white community -- to say that the minority family were made to feel unwelcome is an understatement. As they were crafting their screenplay, Clooney recalled a script that Joel and Ethan Coen had sent him back in 1999, a dark satire along the lines of Fargo. He then seized upon the idea to merge the two scripts into one film, downplaying the comedy and ratcheting up the anger (at least, according to the official press material). It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but the result is a wildly uneven mess of a movie.
Suburbicon begins as African-American family the Meyers move into an all-white Pennsylvania neighborhood in 1959. Immediately, everyone on their street wants them gone. Angry crowds routinely assemble outside of their home and make life hellish for them. But an equally unsettling nightmare is unfolding directly behind the Meyers’ house, where a bizarre home invasion is being carried out by two thugs. Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) wakes up his young son Nicky (Noah Jupe) and tells him to get up because there are men in the house. Those men soon tie up Gardner, Nicky, Gardner’s wheelchair-bound wife Rose (Julianne Moore), and Rose’s identical-twin sister Margaret (Moore again). Things turn ugly fast and Rose is killed. The story that follows includes the twists and turns of a typical Coen brothers’ film, and the less said about them the better. But suffice to say, those involved in the larger criminal plot get in way over their heads with comic, tragic results.
Unfortunately, Clooney doesn’t know what he wants Suburbicon to be. The movie mixes various styles but nothing sticks, largely due to his inability to craft compelling scenes. The pacing is sluggish, bordering on boredom, and he isn’t helped any by Damon, who gives an astonishingly bland performance that continually keeps us at a distance. We never really get a sense of who Gardner Lodge is or what motivates his highly questionable actions. Faring better are Moore and Jupe, but the real standout is a scene-stealing Oscar Isaac as a snoopy insurance-claims investigator. When he enters the picture midway through, the story finally finds a pulse and brightens. Sadly, he doesn’t stay around for very long.
Clooney obviously wants to make a bold statement about race relations and immigration in 2017 America, but his approach is so heavy-handed and awkward that we end up feeling nothing. There is no one to cheer for because all of the characters are underdeveloped, including the Meyers. In fact, Suburbicon would have been a better movie without them in it: Their story feels shoehorned in, and never fits comfortably with the main crime tale being told.
Suburbicon’s main problem is that it has nothing new or original to say. Its pronouncements are shallow and lightweight, which is especially disappointing considering the heavyweight talent involved.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 2017
- Rating: R
- Review: Suburbicon first began life as George Clooney and his writing and producing partner Grant Heslov were working on a script based on events that unfolded in 1957 Levittown, PA, about a black family who moved into a previously all-white community -- to say th… (more)