SUBURBICON (2017)

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Directed By: George Clooney
Written By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney & Grant Heslov
Cinematography By: Robert Elswit
Editor: Stephen Mirrione 


Cast: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar issac, Noah Jupe, Richard Kind, Jack Conley, Gary Basaraba 

In the bosom of Suburbicon, a family-centred, all-white utopia of manicured lawns and friendly locals, a simmering tension is brewing, as the first African-American family moves in the idyllic community, in the hot summer of 1959. However, as the patriarch Gardner Lodge and his family start catching a few disturbing glimpses of the once welcoming neighbourhood’s dark underbelly, acts of unprecedented violence paired with a gruesome death will inevitably blemish Suburbicon’s picture-perfect facade. Who would have thought that darkness resides even in Paradise?

When you first hear or read the title of the film. You would think it to be a spoof or more satire about the suburbs.

The way the film is marketed you are expecting more of a dark nourish comedy. Which is what you get but they leave out that surrounding it the film is also about the integration of a suburban neighborhood that so engulfs the neighborhood with anger. That they are distracted by the non existent bad tho ha that will happen with their neighbors of color that they totally miss all the actual violence and danger that is literally next door.

The film is sly in painting Matt Damon’s wife as more of an innocent victim by also having her be the only character really accepting of the colored neighbors and encouraging her son to pay with their son.

Though it is a prime example of what seems wrong with the film. Where as the film will go on and on showing the cruel nature of racism by neighbors who claim to be liberal and showing the degree of many ways they will go to get them to move out. Which is such a strong story itself. It seems like the filmmakers felt it might be too familiar and decide to include a pulp story in the side. Now this could have worked with nuance and subtlety actually comparing the two showing the violent one they show fear in. they feel they are justified in. While ignoring one of their own supposedly who is even worse. Can understand how the two elements mix for storytelling purposes.

That is what makes the film so interesting and feels even more as a failure. There are some good ideas here and it just kind of falters. Being that it is written by the filmmakers the Coen brothers. All of their hallmarks are here and they could have hit this out of the park. As they know how to handle it. In the hands of George Clooney the film plays flavorless as there is no real style and feels more like a pale imitation of their style. Even worse is that at least in the Coen brothers films there is heavy emphasis on characters and motivations.

The film even copies a more updated hallmark of theirs by having Julianne Moore play double roles. If even for a short period of time. Which the Coen’s have used before with actress Tilda Swinton in HAIL CAESER, though it is also strange that she plays these dual roles who are sisters and one is blonde the other brunette who then later dyed her hair blonde to replicate her sister. Which might be more understandable if different actresses played the role. As she is essentially trying to take the place of her sister and have her life. Where for Damon’s character she is the same except not in a wheelchair and into his more rough sexual interests.

Here the characters feel more like chess pieces that are disposable to the overall story and trying to show off how clever and cruel the script can be. The characters more than often come off as artificial and dated as the time period the film portrays.

Not to mention of you have seen enough films. You are already used to the true darkness that resides underground in the so called safe suburbs. So that the film plays too obvious and tries to bite off more than it can chew properly.

Another problem is that other than the black family and the son of Matt Damon. None of the characters is sympathetic or likeable. Especially towards the end where all of a sudden Damon’s character goes full sociopath psychopath. Even though throughout the film has a viciousness.

Matt Damon plays his role more as Workman like but we never get a deeper connection to why he acts the way he does. We know the reasons all these tasks are thrown at him, it never know him before all the trouble. Which leaves him pretty one note throughout.

The film works more as a genre exercise that despite the many close-up’s of characters feels impersonal. They are more pieces in an overall game. That the film wants to show but never chooses to really get involved in. So that it feels more like this is all a test. We never can quite care about the subjects because we never feel close enough to them. We get a glimpse of what they were like before the catastrophe. It not enough to truly see any difference or learn anything about them or quite if these lengths are out of character and worth the risks taken.

The film tries to be shocking and definitely get a reaction out of the audience. Even though by the end it feels like it was More a showcase then anything natural or meaningful. By the end the film it feels like a wasted opportunity for all involved. Yet you can see why they were attracted to the material and project.

Grade: C-

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