Review: Suburbicon

 
 

Director: George Clooney

Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney and Grant Heslov

Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Gary Basaraba, Karimah Westbrook, Leith M. Burke and Oscar Isaac

Release Date: 24th November

Suburbicon is an idyllic suburban town built fifteen years before the film is set, which has grown and flourished until the current year of 1959. The film begins with a satirical advertisement for the town that enlightens the viewers of its greatness. The audience is informed that there is great diversity in the area which equates to white families from the four corners of the United States.

In the next scene, we see the newest arrival to Suburbicon, the Mayers, an African-American family consisting of a mother, father, and young boy. The immediate reaction of the neighbours lets us know that we are in 1950s USA and George Clooney is about to attempt a social commentary.

“The immediate reaction of the neighbours lets us know that we are in 1950s USA and George Clooney is about to attempt a social commentary.”

Clooney returns to the director’s seat for Suburbicon but this is the first time he has directed and not appeared on screen. The star of the show is the awkward-looking Matt Damon in an ill-cast role as Gardner Lodge, father, husband, and conman. (This is most likely where the ‘con’ at the end of Suburbicon comes from.)

Alongside frequent writing collaborator Grant Heslov, Clooney resurrected this film from a twenty-year-old scrapped Coen brothers’ idea. Watching the film, it is clear to see where Clooney attempts to pull off the Coen brothers’ style but it is, at times, also apparent why they never made this film.

“Clooney resurrected this film from a twenty-year-old scrapped Coen brothers idea.”

The main storyline, involving the Lodge family, was created by the Coens, and then Clooney and Heslov added a subplot surrounding the arrival of the Mayers family. It makes sense to add this story of racism in suburban 1950s America, especially at a time when racism is such a big issue, but it doesn’t mesh well with the main plot.

Conflicting storylines aside, the film does have some redeeming qualities. The 1950s setting is just as most of us picture it, complete with wonderful shiny cars. Robert Elswit (Nightcrawler) does a beautiful job with the cinematography with excellent pan-outs and well-used flashes. Some early imagery also foreshadows what’s to come in the film.

“Some scenes involving the Mayers family are more harrowing than any of the bloody scenes.”

The acting is great for most of the movie with a couple of standout performances. Young actor Noah Jupe, who plays Nicky Gardner, is outstanding. His portrayal of a lonely child dealing with a complex, adult issue is fantastic. Oscar Isaac also stands out as Bud Cooper, the life assurance fraud investigator. Unfortunately, we don’t see him for very long but a spin-off movie starring him in this role would be amazing. Julianne Moore should also get a mention for portraying both Rose and Margaret, sisters who both entangle themselves with Damon’s character.

The film is weird and it seems to throw too many things together but it is watchable. At the end of the day, Clooney does make a social commentary. Tellingly, some scenes involving the Mayers family are more harrowing than any of the bloody scenes. In particular, the scene with Mrs Mayers (Karimah Westbrook) in the supermarket is hard to watch.

In a nutshell: A crazy film from start to finish. Clooney tries to squeeze two films into one and as a result, misses the mark on both.

 

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