Directed by George Clooney.
Starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, and Oscar Isaac.
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 (Matt Damon) must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices. This is Suburbicon.
George Clooney and Matt Damon re-team in the dark comedy Suburbicon, directed by Clooney and written by The Coen Brothers, about a family living in suburban America with some dark secrets. The film follows the typical Coen Brothers format, but misses the mark due to some storytelling choices and unmemorable performances from some of its leads.
Matt Damon plays Gardner Lodge, a typical 1950s type father who is going through a personal crisis after his wife, played by Julianne Moore in one of two roles, is murdered. Their young son Nicky, played by Noah Jupe, is traumatized by the event, but gets even more freaked out when he thinks his father and aunt, his mother’s twin, are hiding something about the murder.
Damon does an adequate job with the material, but he comes across fairly bland. There’s not enough personality to Gardner to make him stand out like some of Damon’s other quirky roles. Rather, he simply goes through the motions and doesn’t really draw the audience in until the third act. Julianne Moore gives a decent performance as Margaret, putting a lot of nuance and depth into the character as she changes from sweet to possibly threatening with ease. She’s probably got more to do in the story than Damon does.
The two cast members who stand above them are Noah Jupe as Nicky, conveying the trauma and tension he faces living in the house with people who increasingly scare him. Unfortunately, though, while Jupe does give one of the film’s best performances, he’s shuffled to the sidelines halfway through the film and has very little to do after that. Nicky loses his agency as a result, becoming reactionary to the plot instead of doing things on is own.
The second actor, and the one who delivers the scene stealing performance, is Oscar Isaac as an insurance investigator. He injects a lot of fun into the film once he appears goes toe-to-toe with Damon and Moore and delivers several funny deadpan one-liners. It’s just a shame Isaac wasn’t in the film more than he was since he brought something fresh and vibrant to the table.
The other big problem with Suburbicon is the plot. There’s the main plot with Nicky and his family and then there’s a running B-plot with a set of African-American neighbours who moved in next door to Nicky that face a lot of discrimination from nearly everyone in the community. It seemed like this plot would heavily impact the film, but it’s ultimately just a red herring that seems pretty pointless.
I’m having a tough time trying to figure out why it was even included, especially since Nicky’s friendship with their son isn’t given that much depth. My best guess is Clooney and the Coens wanted to inject some social commentary in the film, showing how silly it is for people to be angry over residents based on their skin colour, with a seemingly nice family to boot, when right next door is the real thing everyone should be worried about. This would have made an interesting theme, if indeed that was what Clooney and company were going for, but it’s never directly addressed or even clear why it is in the film in the first place. We don’t even get to know the African-American parents; they’re just there, determined to brave the storm of bigotry rather than doing something in the story.
Suburbicon unfortunately is far from a home run for Clooney, Damon and the rest. It’s got a couple of good performances, thanks to Jupe and Isaac, with plenty of macabre humour, but they’re just not enough to right the other flaws in this film. The plot is meandering, the social commentary doesn’t go where it should and most of the performances don’t stand out. For a town about unordinary things happening to unordinary people, this film really is just ordinary for the wrong reasons.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★