By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Saying that Suburbicon went through an identity crisis would be an understatement. It’s part Hitchcock thriller, part racial drama, and part Coen comedy. Nothing meshes well here, and lacklustre performances end up making this a confusing and almost pointless outing.
Set in the 1950s, a home invasion and murder shakes up the picture perfect American town of Suburbicon, and causes racial tensions to rise.
This was a disappointing. Like many films now, Suburbicon’s trailer is very misleading. This is not the Coen comedy that you want it to be, it’s something entirely different altogether and at moments it seemed like it would still work, but there are too many ideas and ambitions at work here. Director George Clooney needed to pick a film and stick to it.
From the get-go, Suburbicon screams Hitchcock thriller and it actually works quite well. at first. There’s a rotten core to the seemingly flawless neighbourhood and a stench of foul play when we meet Gardner (Matt Damon) and his family. Although a little slow and underwhelming, Alexandre Desplat’s sweeping Herrmannesque score manages to build some tension and make the invasion scene, especially for son Nicky (Noah Jupe), quite brutal.
However, that’s just the problem. Rather than sticking with that kind of film, Clooney adds a racial satire drama here as well. A story to echo Trump’s America. A story that would stand a chance on its own, but here it serves only as another layer of confusion on Clooney’s already messy film.
The Coen Brothers, who wrote the original script and have had it for some time, do shine through every now and then. There’s a subtle sense of humour and quirk buried somewhere, but its never present enough for this to be labelled any type of a Coen Brothers’ movie.
Oscar Isaac makes a hell of an entrance as insurance guy Bud Cooper, but is soon forgotten and lost in a haze of extremely underwhelming performances. I would’ve liked to have seen more of Julianne Moore, who plays both wife Rose and sister Margaret, before the home invasion scene of course. No one is particularly bad, they’re just OK. A product of poor directing.
The film does hit the spot concerning suburban nostalgia. Careful thought has been put into production here, and it’s never overly stylised, which these types of films often can be. It’s faithful to the time and there’s a good chance you had something in Gardner’s house at some point or another. For me, it was that fish tank, ornaments and all.
Suburbicon has no idea what it’s supposed to be, and I doubt that even Clooney himself knows what it’s supposed to be. A waste of talent.
Photo: Wenner Media