Skip it. This one isn’t worth your time or money.
A script that has been in the works since the mid-1980s, Suburbicon is the original project of the Coen Brothers (Hail, Caesar!, Bridge of Spies) and was picked up by George Clooney (The Monuments Men). But what the Coen Brothers are famous for, Clooney can’t achieve as director of this film. Suburbicon is flat comedically and its dramatic moments fail to make any kind of statement on the classic theme of the American Dream.
The movie starts with a (superficial) overview of Suburbicon, a quiet, peaceful suburban utopia where bad things don’t happen. With a backdrop of perfectly manicured lawns and overly polite residents, the film quickly turns to the darker side of 1950s America.
Many white families from around the country arrive in Suburbicon to get away from the city, but as soon as the Mayers, an African-American family, move into the latest vacant home on the block, tensions run high. A majority of residents even protest their living in the community.
On the other side of the fence, it’s the Lodge family. Gardner (Matt Damon), Nicky (Noah Jupe), Rose and Maggie (twins played by Julianne Moore).
Soon after the Mayers’ arrival, Rose, Gardner’s wife, is killed with an overdose of chloroform by robbers. Maggie then decides to officially move into the home to help take care of Nicky and – no surprise here – she and Gardner end up sleeping together.
And here’s where the movie never gets off the ground. As you watch the Lodges’ story unfold, as sad as it seems at first, you’re constantly jerked back to the Mayers. I don’t discount their storyline, but it’s like Clooney intentionally gives the audience mental whiplash.
These parallel stories, the Mayers and the Lodges, never meet or mesh together enough to create a cohesive narrative. They fail to make any sort of compelling point about family, race relations or the (somewhat) tired idea that we truly never know what’s happening in our neighbors’ homes.
It’s not relatable or enjoyable. If Clooney’s goal was to make a grounded statement about race and the American Dream, he should’ve reserved it for a more appropriate film.
And the characters don’t add any depth either. Basically, every character is unrelatable, unlikeable or just terrible. Either there’s not an emotional connection to the character – like the Mayers, who we only see in snippets – or there’s no clear understanding why they’re doing what they do – Gardner and Maggie.
I guess you could say that the only relatable character is Gardner’s son, Nicky, who at least looks at what’s happening around him with shock and fear – as a child would.
The one saving grace of the entire film is Oscar Isaac as insurance fraud investigator, Bud Cooper. When he is on screen, it’s an entirely different film. He’s funny, witty and his charisma adds just enough levity to make things interesting for about 10 minutes or so.
But that’s not enough to save this bizarre mess.
Suburbicon is marketed as a dark comedy or a noir thriller, but, unfortunately for Clooney, he never hits the right tone the entire movie. It’s inconsistent on all fronts and the audience can’t experience any of its dramatics in a comedic or satiric light, as a film by the Coens would do.
P.S. My roommates and I chuckled at some parts because of the absurdity. I don’t recall that any of the other 10 people in the theater even laughed.