Movie Review : Suburbicon (2017)
George Clooney's latest directorial effect Suburbicon was either thrashed or ignored by the critics upon its release in theaters, last October. It scored a whopping 29% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.6 on IMDB, a site where terrible movies sometimes get a 6. I was originally planning to see it then, but such a drastic reaction cooled me down and I ended up spending my hard-earned money elsewhere. Could a movie penned by the legendary Coen brothers be that bad? Did they sell George Clooney a garbage screenplay they would've never dared shooting themselves? The short answer is no. Suburbicon is way better than advertised.
The movie is set in a 1950s all-white utopia where a black family just moved in. People are upset, afraid for their property value and reacting like you'd expect a 1950s racist stereotype would. Nobody is paying attention to what's going on in Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon)'s house: sinister-looking home invaders subdue his family and kill his wife Rose (Julianne More). If the crime looks gratuitous and heartless at first, its dark motivations slowly start to emerging as the police and insurance investigations start closing-in on Lodge. But everybody is too busy chastising his black neighbors in order to really care, leaving him prey to his own criminal ineptitude.
Suburbicon is a pretty good movie. It's not perfect, but I believe it primarily suffers from unhealthy expectations towards a Coen brothers penned script and an all-star acting cast. Sure, there's a black family in there who barely qualify as characters. I understand how it can bother some, but they serve an important purpose to the story and the over-the-top racism they suffer from is quintessential Coen brothers satire. I laughed out loud when the neighborhood gathering around their house went from civil disobedience to an all-out riot in the span of a scene. It was borderline surrealism and it fit the hyperreality of Suburbicon. The use of deadpan satire is not the tonal mess we were lead to believe.
Otherwise, Suburbicon is a little complacent here and there, but it's a pretty good film noir. It's a pretty classic iteration with no antihero to root for, which might've bothered some. Gardner Lodge is pathetic and criminal-minded, but I enjoyed his failures with great satisfaction. Suburbicon had clever twists and red herrings that kept the narrative fun and unpredictable. It even had one of the most moving scenes I've ever seen in a noir, with uncle Mitch at the end. I think critics and audiences are holding a grudge against George Clooney for daring to film a Coen brothers screenplay more than anything else. Because that film isn't bad.
The worst thing I can say about Suburbicon is that it sometimes wallows into its own bleakness and has difficulty showing nuance. It makes its point is big, bold neon letters about 5 minutes into the movie and just keeps upping the ante for the next hour and a half: we fear black people for no valid reason while we let white people get away with murder. Sure, I wish there was a little more to it, but Suburbicon is still solid for what it is. Don't believe the hype. Don't let your opinion of George Clooney cloud your judgement. This baby is now available on Netflix and deserves to be seen.