Directed by George Clooney
Written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Noah Jupe, Karimah Westbrook
While clumsily executed at times, Suburbicon can be a fun film if you can forgive its faults. Laughs can arise during the darkest of moments, while the commentary on segregation serves as a violent backdrop to the previously dreamy, serene streets of Suburbicon, an advertisement for which serves as an introduction, revealing an almost uncannily perfect recreation of a late 50’s white town. Too perfect, as an older script from the Coens re-emerges.
Problem is, Clooney had his own film written about segregation, and he has spent very little effort in combining the two stories. The arrival of a black family causes so much chaos it borders on farcical.
One could say that ignorance, delusions, anger and hate are all shared by most parties in the film, both those who begin to harass the new black family to the neighborhood and the men who invade his home and turn the life of Gardner Lodge upside down. The home invasion leads to the Lodge family becoming involved with the Mob, and in typical Coen fashion, violence and mayhem ensue, often funny, and all this happens to coincide with the arrival of the black family. Before the townspeople get violent though, their reactions to the family moving in are… Interesting. And funny.
Unsurprisingly the segregation aspect of the story isn’t fully explored. It is a constant, chaotic background, which certainly helps in creating atmosphere. But the concept was explored little more than simple background action, such as the fact that the increasingly violent actions surrounding Lodge and his family go largely unnoticed due to the entire populace hollering at the new family. The connection is there, but it feels like like an unfinished part of the film, it feels very separated from the story of Gardner Lodge and his family, and apart from two children, none of the characters interact.
The script is the best feature, though it certainly could have been better. There are some dark laughs in the vein of the brothers, but it is very hit and miss. At times it delves into comedy, but the next scene will often be seriously dramatic with sentimental moments. The jarring effect this has makes for some awkward moments, often involving an incredibly monotonous Matt Damon. While this same problem effects most of the film, Moore, Noah Jupe and Oscar Isaac are great, even if their characters are a little thin – especially Isaac’s role.
If only the brothers had made this film themselves…
Unsurprisingly, this is a very Coen-like film, both in the dialogue and the story. The overall direction and editing though is clumsy, while Damon continues to exhibit his complete lack of charisma. It falls down further as the story movies forward, and the two strands become increasingly isolated from one another as it becomes obvious that Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov have tried to shoehorn an almost completely unrelated story into a fun action-caper. While the final act is especially dark and satisfying, one can’t help but think that the side story of the black family could have been involved, somehow, in the story of Gardner Lodge’s family. It certainly would have made things interesting, and could have made for a very unique flick.
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Nice review Jordan. I was interested in seeing this for the Coens’ involvement alone, but the reviews and trailers dissuaded me. Would be really interesting to see what the movie would be like in the brothers’ hands…
Indeed it would have. It just comes off so obvious that Clooney tried to jam his own completely unrelated story into a Coen story.
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Good review! Looking forward to seeing this one.
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Its better than people are giving it credit for I think. Far from perfect though – Clooney should have kept his segregation screenplay for another day, it just doesn’t match the darkly funny Coen-like suburban mayhem at all.
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