A home invasion rattles a quiet family town.
‘Suburbicon’ really ought to be a better film than it is, coming as it does based on an old Coen Brothers script, and retooled by George Clooney and Grant Heslov for release. The end result is an ineffective mishmash of themes and ideas, with the biting dark comedy that this could have been feeling watered down by a script that throws too many elements at the screen and hoping they’ll all stick (they don’t). The story follows Gardner Lodge, a placid man who lives at home with his disabled wife (Julianne Moore) and his young son (Noah Jupe) in the seemingly idyllic neighbourhood of Suburbicon. One night, the family home is broken into by two robbers with tragic consequences, and the remainder of the film takes on the fallout from this incident. The area of ‘Suburbicon’ is clearly designed as a pastiche of American post-war housing policy where many people moved out to newly built suburban neighbourhoods, but any critique is surface level and the idea of dark secrets hiding under the welcoming façade has been done much better in superior films to this.
‘Suburbicon’ has all the hallmarks of a Coen Brothers film, but it lacks the style to ape them effectively. Clooney is a good director and he’s worked with the Coen’s numerous times in the past, but whilst the elements taken from their original script are obvious (quirky characters, bad decisions leading to even worse situations), the problems begin with the changes Clooney and Heslov have made. The main aspect that doesn’t work is the attempt to add a racial element to the plot, introducing a black family to the all-white 50s neighbourhood and watching as the locals protest and turn on the mild-mannered family. Apart from detracting from the main plot, the problem with these sequences are that Clooney never seems to know what tone he’s going for and like the film as a whole, it suffers as a result. It’s too serious an issue to be tackled in a film with a darkly comedic vibe and the script awkwardly tries to get its point across whilst also maintaining a comic tone.
The remainder of the film feels very Coen Brothers-lite and I was never really invested in the primary narrative, which I felt unfolded fairly obviously with little to make it stand out. There are some solid turns in the supporting cast, with Oscar Isaac belonging in a better film than this as a sharp talking insurance agent, and Noah Jupe impressive as the Lodge’s young son, Nicky, but there is little else to recommend. ‘Suburbicon’ is a film that attempts to mix dark comedy, murder mystery, social satire and racial commentary but the script never succeeds in blending these aspects together and the attempts to cover so much ultimately end up overwhelming the entire movie, and this is a disappointing misfire from Clooney and co.
Directed By: George Clooney
Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Noah Jupe, Glenn Fleshler, Megan Ferguson, Jack Conley, Gary Basaraba and Michael D. Cohen