Suburbicon

Published on November 1st, 2017

Suburbicon

Starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, and Oscar Isaac

Directed by George Clooney

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Suburbicon, a deadly affair about deadly deeds in immaculate middle- America suburbia, is a movie you can’t wait to see the end of. Co-written by its director, the usually instinctive George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and the always inventive Joel and Ethan Coen, it tells a muddled story of murder and aggressive racism. There is no denying Clooney has a point here. The end of the film strongly suggests that in the 1950s (and for the most part you could hardly argue it even today), children were better off without their parents. The young are born free- thinkers, ready to absorb all they see and given half a chance, parents will redirect those fresh attitudes for a uniform future. Clooney’s cynical vision of the 1950s is an ugly, violent, and bigoted one but what should a boy think when right next door, a black family are being blatantly persecuted while in his own lounge room, his father has arranged for his mother to be murdered? So heavy handed and literal is this movie, Clooney may as well have visited cinemas and slugged us all personally.

Living in this all-white neighbourhood of manicured lawns, buzz cuts, and Stepford wives are the bespectacled Gardiner Lodge (a chunky Matt Damon), his wheelchair bound wife Rose (Julianne Moore, lost at sea), their son Nicky (Noah Jupe), and Rose’s sister Maggie (Moore again). One night, Gardiner wakes up his son and orders him downstairs where two thugs are holding the family hostage. By the time its over, Rose is dead, Nicky’s father and aunt fail to identify the perpetrators in a lineup, and Maggie, who loves a good spanking and dyes her hair to match Rose’s (oh the perversion of it all), is now to be called Mummy. Where is Clooney taking us with this?

Interlopers are not welcome in Suburbicon so when a black family attempts to make their home next door, they find their grocery prices are inflated on the spot, they’re sneered at, and thugs sit outside their house till all hours in an attempt to intimidate them. Nicky plays catch with their son (the film’s only sweet moment) but pretty soon, neighbours on either side have built high fences to block them out. This ugly scenario reaches a fever pitch (with Kathryn Bigelow’s dangerous new film Detroit about to open, surely we have reached saturation pointing regarding the brutality of racial bias?) and soon enough their house is surrounded by a hysterical crowd that sets fire to their car.

It is in bad taste to reveal spoilers when reviewing films that have twists and turns like this one, as telegraphed as they are, but Clooney handles it all so badly, it deserves no such respect or consideration. The only fun to be had here is picking out the contribution by the Coen brothers and how anyone, with such a hot potato, could fumble it this badly. Clearly, the murder plot gone wrong was hatched by them (you can see the potential for black comedy from space) as was the choice of period setting. You’ll walk out of this one wishing they’d offered to direct. Their period films are a feast for the eyes and the ears. Clooney’s vision is just ugly noise.