PARAMOUNT PICTURES (2017)
Director: George Clooney
Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Oscar Isaac
Come to Suburbicon! It’s perfect!
No, it really isn’t.
Dreamy George Clooney steps behind the camera to bring an unused Coen Brothers script to life in Suburbicon, set in the 1950’s and attempts to tackle the heavy racial subjects of the time whilst also intertwining a thriller aspect to proceedings. An insurance scam, to be precise.
Double Indemnity, this ain’t.
Suburbicon, a perfect, idyllic…and all-white neighbourhood gets shaken to its core when, shock horror, an African-American family (the Mayers) take up residence there. Well, the townsfolk turn to the local housing authorities for help against these intruders, eventually having fences put up around the house so they don’t have to deal with the sight of the Mayers. The local’s anger turns to hate as daily remonstrations turn to nightly sieges against the innocent family. Meanwhile, across the street, the Lodge family’s home has been invaded by robbers. Gardner (Damon), his wife Rose (Moore), son Nicky (Jupe) and Rose’s identical sister (also, Moore) are tied up and drugged by the fiends, with tragedy striking later. After the incident, Gardner’s strange behaviour begins to alienate his son, pique the interest of the local police and garner suspicion from insurance salesman Bud Cooper (Isaac) on the case.
The two stories above are pretty much separate narratives for the entire movie, never at all intersecting, despite the movies apparent attempt at (re)highlighting the racist undertones of the 1950s (the brief friendship of Nicky and Andy (Tony Espinosa), the Mayers’ child of the same age, being the only interaction between the two ‘main’ families). It’s this particular issue that leads to the movies ultimate downfall - the messy, unstructured narrative that leaves the Mayers subplot as just that. A subplot that receives no depth, no exposition and, ultimately, no attention. It’s a pointless, terribly shoehorned in attempt at social commentary. Is the racism subplot the major allegory? Either way, it’s nothing more than utter background story. The brief scenes of racism in the ‘50s are well shot and handled, but act as simply sideshow to the main, weaker thread - the well-worn home invasion genre gets another rollout here, albeit with a slight twist.
Matt Damon’s unconvincing Gardner and his arc are just…boring. It’s an unconvincing as his portrayal as the scam lurches from setback to setback, always telegraphed yet never exciting. It’s good to see Damon in a heel role, but maybe another movie would’ve made better use of him. Only Oscar Isaac’s brief cameo injects any urgency into the proceedings and that his 8 minutes (or so) screentime deliver the movies highlights says a lot about the rest of Surburbicon.
It’s also grimly unfunny. Whilst it’s clear which lines were written by the Coen Brothers (the sharp lines), the humour falls flat and just does nothing to elevate the movie. Suburbicon’s intro is possibly the most fun moment – a breezy, satiric advertisement urging you and your family to move to the pleasant town, but that aside there are few reasons to raise a smile here.
For the first half, the movie looks great. It’s hard not to enjoy the sight of the atypical American suburb of the ‘50s, there’s something about the perfect lawns, spotless exteriors and vibrant colours that capture the imagination and makes for great cinematic visuals. As the movies lurches into its insipid finale, the darkness takes over and the colour (and any joy) is bled from the picture. Its clear Clooney has an eye for a great shot/framing, it just doesn’t evolve well here.
It’s hard to find any real positives in Suburbicon. It’s easy to applaud Clooney for his intent and the message that he obviously wanted to get across, but it’s the manner of its execution that prevents anything getting through. Parts of it look great, Oscar Isaac is decent and there’s the odd zinger in the script but that’s about it. Around three-quarters of the way through, I had lost all interest in the movie and couldn’t wait for it to be over.
The PB and J sandwiches looked good, however.
November 29th 2017