Despite the fact that they co-wrote it, or at least the first draft, this movie still feels like Coen Brothers fan fiction. It takes the big pieces that usually fit within a Coen brothers’ movie, cast the right actors, balance an awkward tone, but the sum of the parts here just don’t add up to much. Part of the problem is that I’d seen the trailer too many times, and it really sells a completely different movie than the one you get, and perhaps without that baggage I may have been a bit more forgiving to the end product, but not by much.
Directed by George Clooney, who also shares a screenwriting credit, Suburbicon follows Gardner (Matt Damon), a mid-level worker in a non-descript post, who lives in the Suburbicon development in the 1950s, as the utopian town is reacting to the first influx of color into the neighborhood. The community is not thrilled. Gardner has an injured wife at home, and a young son, both of whom are looked after by his wife’s twin sister (both of whom are played by Julianne Moore). As is typical Coen Brothers, there’s a crime, and things spiral out from there.
The biggest issue with the film is tone. It’s a pitch-black comedy, but not all that funny, and the heavy drama just feels piled on without many laughs to break the tension. The racial drama that unfolds isn’t given service beyond being background noise, and you end up following a lot of characters all doing dumb things for reasons mostly because the plot requires it. It’s disappointing, because everyone is certainly game for it. Damon and Moore are clearly having fun, and it’s nice that she feels age appropriate to partner with him, despite being 10 years his senior. Noah Jupe as Gardner’s son seems to carry the entire film in his big sad eyes, but the ending plays out mostly as expected, with a gigantic spoiler in the trailer solidifying details.
It’s a shame because everyone involved in the film is capable of delivering a much better result, but the only thing that ends up on screen is continual disappointment.
My Grade – C-