Directed by George Clooney.
Starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Glenn Fleshler, Gary Basaraba, Karimah Westbrook, Tony Espinosa, Megan Ferguson, and Oscar Isaac.
A home invasion rattles a quiet family town.
It’s all too easy to discuss the rather meat-headed prescience of George Clooney’s Suburbicon, a film unable to shift a lingering sense of falsity and façade. As to whether this is deliberate – the titular small town looks as if torn straight from a catalogue – is debatable, but Clooney, alongside regular collaborators Grant Heslov and the Coen Brothers, have woven a tale shamefully hollow.
And this hollowness spreads through the dueling narratives Clooney struggles to interweave. Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) leads a seemingly blissful life alongside wheelchair bound wife Rose (Julianne Moore), her twin-sister Margaret (Moore once again) and son Nicky (Noah Jupe).
Nicky is woken one night by his father and alerted to the fact they are being burgled by two men (Glenn Fischer and Alex Hassell) who tie them to chairs and knock them out with chloroform.
Running parallel to this is a wholly misjudged, but well-intentioned discussion of race relations inspired by the Levittown incident of 1957, whereby a black family’s arrival into a new suburb in Pennsylvania was met by a white riot. Clooney haphazardly drops these vignettes in with little care, and they act only as unwieldy distractions to a plot already cumbersome.
That’s not to say the two warring plots don’t sporadically align. A late appearance by Oscar Isaac as a charming insurance investigator adds real weight to the film and Clooney and his collaborators finally work out how it is to bring the two together. As the world crumbles around the Lodge’s, the Meyers’ find themselves under attack from the now fully mobilised white mob.
It’s a shame then that it takes a good hour or so to find it’s footing. There’s also a real tonal issue. That acerbic black humour the Coen Brothers do so well feels muted and dampened by latter-day script changes and Clooney struggles to tread the middle ground between the need for drama and playing it for broad laughs. Thankfully in Moore and Isaac, both of whom seem to be entirely game, you have two performers bringing real weight to the proceedings.
And then back to the falsity. Even as the drama becomes more lofty, and the film reaches its explosive climax, it all feels rather fallacious, smug and dizzy off it’s own fumes. The mistaken attempt at aiming for prescience only lightens and dampens the over-arcing tragedy and is little more than a delusory, half-arsed aim at a conversation.
There are moments of brilliance however. Alexandre Desplat’s score is playful and Clooney, alongside cinematographer Robert Elswit bring a startling eye. But it’s not enough to lift it from being a muted rallying call, or a sub-par Coen Brothers effort.
Clooney clearly has lofty ambitions as a filmmaker, and the twists and turns of Suburbicon are well-intentioned if largely misjudged (so much of the plot is kept close to the chest of characters that motives become needlessly foggy).
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★