On paper and in theory, “Suburbicon” seemed destined to be an original, suspenseful Hollywood thriller that audiences would embrace. On-camera talent like Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, combined with the behind-the-scenes aptitudes of director George Clooney and writers Joel and Ethan Coen, would typically brand a film with this kind of pedigree as an Oscar darling. It should’ve been. It would’ve been.
It wasn’t. In this writer’s opinion, “Suburbicon” never came anywhere close.
The film is set in America in the year 1959, with the backdrop of a cluster of manufactured, nearly-identical homes hosting middle class families in Suburbicon. The families moved from all over the country to be a part of the endeavor, and as a result, object angrily when the status quo they moved there seeking is upset by the arrival of the Mayers family, a new family -- a black family.
What began as obvious discomfort devolved into blatant racism and protest of the Mayers’ presence in Suburbicon, with many calling for their expulsion from the town. While all of this is going on outside, the main story is inside the home of Gardner Lodge (Damon), his wife, Rose, her twin sister, Margaret (Moore), and their son, Nicky. After befriending the Mayers, intruders make their way into the Lodge home, resulting in the murder of Rose Lodge. While many would connect the dots between the two events, “Suburbicon” then attempts to weave a tale of a far more sinister reality with bloody results.
The key word in the description above is attempts. I label “Suburbicon” in that way because the film does not succeed in accomplishing any of its apparent goals, at least the ones I could identify as a viewer. Flat dialogue, listless acting, and a confusing narrative structure prevent “Suburbicon” from joining Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” as the second taut, thought-provoking parable of 2017.
It is obvious upon viewing this film that Clooney and Company had been trying to produce a seminal piece of social commentary in the midst of one of the most heated periods of social unrest in America in half a century. The fact of the matter is this script, written by the Coen brothers, wades into waters that are ever-deepening in 2017 America. As such, the additions of Damon, Moore, and Clooney seemingly functioned as high quality diving equipment to explore said waters with purpose and resonance.
In the end, the wealth of Hollywood heavyweights that lend their talents to “Suburbicon” do not amount to an effort to explore the shadowy depths of race relations in this country. In reality the only aquatic implements they mirror are underinflated pool floats haphazardly colliding on the water’s surface.