You wouldn’t think that a film with the names of the Coen Brothers, George Clooney, Matt Dmon and Julianne Moore could fail, would you. Well, Suburbicon is the proof that it can.
Set in an all white community in the 1950s, Matt Damon played Gardner Lodge, who apparently was having problems with local gangsters over money that he owed, and was hoping to protect his family. However, truth was that the film is truly about an insurance fraud case and a murder.
Now, the movie’s trailers sold me one aspect of this movie and it misdirected me into believing one thought of Suburbicon. It made Matt Damon look like the hero of the story. This is absolutely not the case. In fact, Gardner Lodge is one of the least likable protagonists we have had come along in a while.
Honestly, the only character that had any redeeming quality here at all was Nicky (Noah Jupe), Lodge’s son. This character was solid and does a great job in the movie giving the audience someone to root for. Noah Jupe is excellent in the role as well. 2017 has seen a group of tremendous child actors plying their wares on screen, and Jupe is just the latest.
However, there is one massive problem with Suburbicon. The film feels like it is two completely different movies with completely different tones, because the story involving Lodge and the insurance fraud is just one part of the film, and it is not even the part that the film begins with.
The film actually kicks off with the first part involved in a story of a family of African-Americans who moved into the all-white neighborhood, and how the white community responded in the unfortunately typical racist fashion. Yet, these scenes have almost nothing to do with the main story of Gardner Lodge and the death of his wife (played by Julianne Moore), outside of happening next door. Because of the separation of these stories and their distinctively contradictory tones, this whole racial story feels more like a distraction than it is an integral part of the movie. In fact, Gardner uses what is going on next door as a literal distraction to accomplish much of what he does. That diminished the potentially powerful message the film may have been trying to show.
Then, the film does not commit enough to making the main story a dark comedy. There are some comedic moments, but there is nothing to really support the over-the-top situation that these characters find themselves in. Because of that, the film does not feel very funny.
The actors all do a decent job, as no one is terrible. Matt Damon and Julianne Moore are okay, probably because their characters are lacking depth. We know very little about these two (three people…as Julianne Moore played twin sisters Rose and Margaret) and we know even less about the relationship between them. We are told some history of them, but honestly the first 15-20 minutes of this part of the story I spent trying to figure out the connections of these characters.
Oscar Isaacs appeared and brought some much needed energy to a story that was quickly becoming boring, but he did not last long on screen.
Director George Clooney may have tried to cram too much into this film, which made it feel like a mishmash of too many types of film. There might have been a good movie to be had if he would have focused on one aspect only and not tried to make, at least, two different movies. Suburbicon had some moments where it showed what it could have been, but the sum of its parts does not add up to a good movie.