Suburbicon (2017)

  • Time: 105 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Mystery
  • Director: George Clooney
  • Cast: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac

Storyline:

Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns…the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices. This is Suburbicon.

5 reviews

  • (RATING: ☆☆½ out of 5 stars)

    GRADE: C

    THIS FILM IS MILDLY RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: A murder thriller that would have been better as a dark comedy that satirizes the idealized American way of life.

    SYNOPSIS: Life in a 60’s suburban community is thrown off-kilter.

    RUNNING TIME: 1 hr., 44 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW: A good movie trailer peaks the interest of the moviegoer without giving away too much of the plot and characters. It only shows a glimpse of what one could expect from the full length feature without divulging the reveal. So why, you may ask, do I begin this review with that fact? The coming attraction to Suburbicon totally mislead the viewer into thinking this film to be a dark satirical comedy with a 60’s vibe to that era and its cookie-cutter utopia. And that is unfortunate. A dark comedy with farcical elements would have made this film a refreshing antidote to the drama that unfolds.

    The Coen Brothers are known for their offbeat satirical vision with their quirky characters, ironic situations, and their flip side of American life. Yet Suburbicon is only partly a Coen Brothers film. The movie is based on an old unfinished script by the directors and readapted by others, namely director George Clooney and Glenn Heslov. Their first misstep in updating that original screenplay (among many) is adding a story of racial unrest to a plot involving a murder scheme devised by a doofus. The two storylines never quite mesh.

    It’s all in the tone, how words are expressed and actions exemplified. For a farce to work and get across its message by means of absurdity, everything and everybody must be over exaggerated and unknowingly act in an universal reality. In this film, most of the characters play out their caricatures as Norman Rockwell stick figures without much embellishment. But the script never goes into over-the-top mode. It’s as bottled-up as its main character. The outlandish set-ups are played too seriously and the film resembles second-tier Hitchcock (right down to Alexandre Desplat’s ominous but intrusive score and images right out of Vertigo, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and The Trouble with Harry. The artistic craftsmanship is there on the screen, but the movie never lets loose.(The production values and period details are top notch and the film’s biggest asset.)

    Matt Damon plays Gardner Lodge, an American dad caught up in his own sins. The actor has a strong scene with his son (a wonderful Noah Jupe) toward the end of the film, but Mr. Damon never goes full gonzo to establish the character’s mad streak and desperation. He plays his character straight and resembles a Jerry Lundergaard (from Fargo) without the humor. Julianne Moore plays dual roles as his wife Rose and his dim-witted sister-in-law, Margaret. She nicely embodies the “Stepford Wife / Wicked Stepmother” persona. Also on hand are Gary Basaraba as an odd Uncle Mitch and Oscar Isaac as a slick insurance auditor who brings the right degree of comedy and menace that this film sorely needs, but Mr. Isaac’s performance enters the film too late and only shows the expectations that the movie could have achieve with more rewrites.

    A secondary subplot of an African-American family moving in next door seems an afterthought to the murder mystery plot. (The aforementioned trailer never even hints at this premise.) Their invasion into this all-white housing complex with its perfectly manicured lawns and multiple ranch style dwellings does confirm the ugliness of racism rather effectively, but this narrative does little to advance Gardner’s story-line, even though Mr. Clooney does some clever directorial touches to build suspense.

    Suburbicon wants to draw attention to a world that may appear to be perfect is less so. But instead the filmmakers show that their film is imperfect to say the least.

    Visit my blog at: http://www.dearmoviegoer.com

    ANY COMMENTS: Please contact me at: jadepietro@rcn.com

  • This operatic black comedy sets two neighbouring stories in an idyllic 1959 American suburb.
    The opening real estate commercial sells the new neighbourhood as a secure, safe, self-contained American Eden. It’s the kind of neighbourhood where the mailman knows everyone by name.
    When an African-American family move in, the white bigotry is at first played as comedy. Here it’s the whites who ardently beg for the right to live there and avow: “We shall overcome.” Director George Clooney assumes we assume that modern America has left ‘50s prejudice and complacency long behind.
    But maybe not. The black family’s neighbours demand the community build a fence to hide them from their view, a fence the families won’t have to pay for. Sound familiar? Clooney’s 1959 fable of racism and white corruption is a projection of Trump’s America, fence and all. America then is America now. This twinning repeats in Julianne Moore playing both sisters.
    The neighbours’ outrage swells, from refusing to serve the woman in the supermarket, through an assault by noise and rage, and finally mob violence.
    In the second story a young white family man and executive Gardner Lodge initially seems the victim of a home invasion, which kills his wife (whom he crippled in a car accident). Turns out he and his sister-in-law have contracted the two thugs to murder his wife. They plan to cash in on her insurance and escape to Aruba. This neat scheme balloons into a grand guignol order of murders. Indeed even the All-American milk and PBJ on sliced white proves poisonous.
    The two stories connect through the two families’ young sons. They become friends, playing baseball. The African American Andy gives the white Nicky a garter snake. They talk through the old tin-cans-on-a-string phone. In the last scene the two boys play catch across their backyard fence, while the pallid infestation of bungalows spreads out to the horizon.
    The boys playing could be an image from the ad. But the innocence is gone. The Gardners, the wife’s siblings, the thugs, the corrupt insurance investigator, all are dead. The snake survives, an innocent reminder of the fall from Eden. Here it’s the people not the snake that are the threat to innocence. Even the shrewd insurance investigator — who should be the film’s agent of justice — proves a greedy self-serving fraud, whose falsehood deserves his death by a lye.
    Can we grab hope from the two boys’ friendship? Not really. One is an orphan; the other is still in that threatened family. Anyway, we know that sixty years later the film’s dynamic continues to play out. The corrupt, violent white society blames the innocent blacks for all their issues, failures, moral compromises. In the film, while the neighbourhood whites assail the black family, the murderous fraud in their own midst unspools unchecked.
    Clooney directs films with a political bite: The Monuments Men, The Ides of March, Leatherheads, Good Night and Good Luck, going back to Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. This new work undermines Trump’s nostalgia for the lost “great” America by exposing the fraud, corruption and racism that remain powerful enough to have elected him. Like Trump, this idyllic suburbia is a con.

  • Hitchcock is the most copied film director. Suburbicon keeps the tradition going by throwing in so many unrelated references to the director through lighting, shadows, camera angles, music and physical bits that it’s confusing. Suburbicon’s director is someone I thought knew better but obviously doesn’t. This movie is also a great big misfire in tone. There are two movies here, the bigotry story and the family murder mystery, and they could each have stood on their own.
    The bigotry plot line is straight forward with no tricks or gimmicks. There is an enormous problem with dialog because there’s almost none in this story but the actions make up for that. The family is stoic. The crowd tries to force them to move by twisting up the Constitution to somehow support what they want to do, live in an all-white town. It’s all very relevant to today and it is all very well done. It doesn’t end with a major resolution but, as only the third time the two plots combine, it is a nice look into the future where mob violence, threats, and intimidation will not control our society.
    The murder story, even though it gets a lot more dialog, never looks right. This is because of tone. This story looks like it was a comedy and then someone changed their mind. The opening sequence is humorous visually and musically. Every once in a while something would happen that was obviously meant to be funny but was down played so it didn’t get any laughs. They even play up the comedy in the previews before the movie opened which made the let down all that more disappointing. Even with that, the story could have been an excellent black humor piece if they had gone with it.
    This is where the Hitchcock references started to get in the way. These bits didn’t grow out of the story but were placed in the story often to jarring effect rather than building suspense. Just adding Hitchcock references doesn’t mean they work the same way they did in their original and the soundtrack for Suburbicon was the biggest offender. Without copying the actual notes the scoring sounds like Hitchcock through rhythms, volume, and pauses. The music set us up for Hitchcock reference but the action came off as pale imitation.
    I give Saburbican 2 baseball gloves out of 5. The only reason it gets this much is because the sets, costumes, food, and even the make-up was perfect for the time period. There’s an old saying for stage musicals, “No one goes home whistling the set.” and it hold true here as well. The elements they got so right don’t carry plot or tension. No matter how perfect they were they cannot save this movie.

  • Welcome to Suburbicon, a community whose idea of itself as “a melting pot of diversity” is defined by the full spectrum of whiteness. One can well imagine the shock that electrifies this cookie-cutter corner of Americana when – gasp! – the African-American Mayers family moves in. What will become of their property values and their sense of safety? “We demand our civil rights to live where we want and with who we want. And with God’s help, we will overcome.”

    One can be forgiven for believing that Suburbicon, directed by George Clooney from a long-abandoned screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen, is a satire of 1950s liberalism but the darkness that dwells behind the white picket fences have less to do with race relations than with good old-fashioned murder. Though Clooney pulls off some stinging moments in the neighbourhood’s treatment of the Mayers, the racial subplot feels out-of-place in what is essentially a squib of James M. Cain’s noirs, which the Coen Brothers riffed on in Blood Simple and Fargo.

    Next door to the Mayers live the Lodges, and they are in trouble. Two robbers, Sloan (Glenn Fleshler) and Louis (Alex Hassell) are in their home and, much to young Nicky’s (Noah Jupe) horror, tie up and chloroform all members of his family. When Nicky awakens in hospital, he learns that his wheelchair-bound mother Rose (Julianne Moore) is dead. Her identical twin Margaret (also Moore), who survived the incident, soon moves in to help her sister’s family. The film wastes little time in insinuating that there’s more between the grieving widower Gardner (Matt Damon) and Margaret than mere familial relations. Margaret, her brunette locks changed to Rose’s shade of blonde, has taken her sister’s place as housewife and mother with nary a missed beat. “It ain’t right,” insists Nicky’s Uncle Mitch (Gary Basaraba), who’s suspicious about the living arrangement and concerned about Nicky’s welfare.

    Uncle Mitch is right to be worried for, whilst the Mayers’ home is besieged by increasingly uncontrollable protesters, trouble keeps knocking on the Lodges’ door. Not only are Sloan and Louis back to collect on the debt owed to them by Gardner, they’re intent on getting rid of any liabilities such as Nicky, who recognised them during the police line-up and can’t understand why his father and his aunt didn’t name his mother’s murderer. Then there’s Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac, having a grand old time), the insurance claims investigator who immediately cottons on to Gardner and Margaret’s scheme. Needless to say, all the detergent in the world can’t erase the blood that flows in the film’s third act.

    When Suburbicon keeps its focus on being a pulp noir, it’s a nastily enjoyable piece of work. Both Damon and Moore are excellent, each playing off their decent and wholesome facades to chilling effect, especially in scenes involving the terrific Jupe. Margaret maintains her Stepford wife veneer and Marilyn Monroe soft voice as she essentially threatens young Nicky; meanwhile, Gardner’s father-son talk with Nicky at the dinner table increasingly unsettles as his words of comfort turn a very dangerous corner.

    Clooney keeps the mayhem sprightly and diabolical. Suburbicon may not offer anything new on the genre, but it certainly is, for the most part, an extremely satisfying entry.

    Click here for more reviews at the etc-etera site

  • “The only thing Suburbicon is missing is you.
    Isn’t it time for your new start?
    Come home to Suburbicon.”

    It doesn’t happen often, but now I had a feeling I didn’t really understand what I’d watched. Not that “Suburbicon” was a complicated, incomprehensible film. But I didn’t know what the initial intention was of the filmmakers? Was it meant to bring a socially critical message? Or was it a satirical view of an American society during the 50s with its tidy, decent neighborhoods and good-humored citizens? Or was it simply a crazy crime story with a fraudulent twist? Ultimately, in my eyes it was a mix of all of this, with not one facet that stands out. It’s a bundling of mediocrities. And the two mixed stories seem to have nothing to do with each other. It is, as it were, an amalgamation of two ordinary short films.

    On the one hand you have the story of the Lodge family who become victim of a home invasion with housewife Rose (Julianne Moore) being killed due to an overdose of chloroform. What appears to be an ordinary robbery, evolves into a web of intrigues and lies. A web Gardner (Matt Damon) threatens to suffocate in. And on the other hand, there’s the Mayers family who moved to a house in Suburbicon. Nothing special at first sight. Only it’s an Afro-American family. And that causes quite a stir and controversy in this town where only white civilians live.

    The first story is based on a script written by the Coen brothers long time ago. The second story is based on true facts. It’s the story of the Myers family who in these days moved to Levittown, much to the disliking of the inhabitant, and settled themselves in a similar neighborhood. The result was an interference by the authorities to stop racist reactions and physical violence. This led to an injunction and criminal charges against the harassers just to protect the Myers family. But as I mentioned earlier, these are two separate storylines.

    Fortunately, the design of the film looks terrific. The idyllic image of this suburb and the typical features that belong to this time were worked out in an adequate way. The clothing, the cars, the interior and the friendly attitude to life are perfectly represented. In that respect, the film looks attractive. In terms of acting, the role of Matt Damon stands out. A superficial looking timid citizen. A similar character to that of Michael Douglas in “Falling Down“. Jullianne Moore could enjoy herself with her double role. But you can not call it impressive acting. For me, Karimah Westtbrook was the one who played the most colorful role (no pun intended) as the adamant and persevering Mrs. Mayer. A woman who’s patiently watching how a limited protest slowly grows into an angry crowd shouting slogans and singing nationalistic songs. At a certain moment I didn’t know whether this was a satirical portrait or a reflection of reality. And then we come flawlessly to the humor section. I like black humor. And probably it was also intended to be blackish humoristic at certain times. But the only moment where I could see a glimpse of black humor was in the denouement. All in all, I didn’t think the film was really spectacular and the subject wasn’t worked out subtle enough.

    More reviews here : movie-freak.be

Write your review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *