I was asked earlier this month how I would describe the movie Suburbicon in a one line review. It took some time to think of how to describe this film with just one statement. I had to use three other movies to describe this one, so it definitely hopes that people know those other three films. Here is what I had to say: Suburbicon is like a stroll through Pleasantville, turning on to Arlington Road and meeting up with The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Just to put into perspective where this movie is coming from, the Coen Brothers are the brains behind it. Joel and Ethan Coen are two of the co-writers on the film. They are joined by George Clooney, who also directs the film and Grant Heslov. These four have collaborated in the past on different projects. Such films as The Men Who Stare at Goats, Monuments Men, Hail Caesar! and O Brother Where Art Thou?. For the record, I did enjoy this movie, but I am going to tell you up front… it’s not for everyone.
Who’s In It?
Ever since the movie Ocean’s Eleven in 2001, George Clooney and Matt Damon have worked together several times. George first directed Matt in the aforementioned Monuments Men and they return to that dynamic for Suburbicon. Matt plays Gardner Lodge, the father of a family living in the Pleasantville-esque community of Suburbicon.
Joining Matt Damon in this film is Julienne Moore as both Rose and Margaret. They are sisters in the film and Matt‘s Gardner is married to Rose. Playing their child Nicky, is young actor Noah Jupe who befriends the new neighbor boy Andy, as played by Tony Espinosa. Other notable actors in the film are Oscar Isaac, Glenn Flsehler, Gary Basaraba, Mark Leslie Ford and Richard Kind.
What’s It About
This film is very hard to describe without giving away too much of what actually happens. To begin with, the setting is 1959 in Subrubicon, USA. Suburbicon is a community of all white Americans living the stereo typical life of the 1950’s. You know the look: the white picket fence in the front yard; the colour cooridnated houses; and the man works while the wife stays home to run the house, raise the child and serve her husband his food.
The community is shaken to its core when an African-American family moves into the neighbourhood. Mr. and Mrs. Mayers and their child Andy move into a home that shares a backyard with the Lodge’s. It is Margaret who tells her nephew Nicky to go and play with the new kid. Nicky checks with his mom, and then proceeds to begin a friendship with Andy.
Things take a turn and the unthinkable happens. Two men are in the Lodge’s home at night and have the entire family seated around a table. Rose, who is paralyzed, is taken out of her wheelchair to be restrained with the rest of the family. Gardner tries to reassure his family that everything is going to be O.K. However, the two men then chloroform the entire family, including little Nicky.
The home invasion results in the death of Rose and Margaret stays to help with the family. The town is in mourning, but begins to place blame on the fact that a black family has moved into the community. The tensions are high, and racist protests begin outside the Mayers home. Everything from writing racial slurs on their house, torching their car and yelling obscenities to tell them to leave.
With all the racial tension, you would think that would be the main part of the story. However, what we find lurking in Suburbicon is that Gardner Lodge has been keeping quite a few secrets. Secrets that are beginning to come out thanks to a visit from a life insurance adjuster (Oscar Isaac). Not to mention the two men who were a part of the home invasion that resulted in the death of Rose visiting Lodge at his place of work.
My Thoughts On Suburbicon
I really enjoyed this very weird and interesting look at the 1959 racially charged little community. The Coen Brothers have a unique style in their writing that can definitely be an acquired taste. George Clooney has really started to figure out this whole directing gig. He is becoming quite the dual threat man in Hollywood. I wouldn’t quite say he’s on Kenneth Branagh‘s level just yet, but he’s well on his way.
Matt Damon can bring that stoic craziness to a character like only he can. Think about his Jason Bourne franchise or the movie I referred to earlier, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and you will see a man who can really portray that level of crazy. He is borderline sociopathic in this film, and it is well-played out on-screen.
At this point, I have to give a huge shout out to the actor portraying Nicky. Noah Jupe may just have stolen this movie. He was our conduit between the Mayers and the rest of Suburbicon. Noah was able to not only portray the innocent child, but gave us some great moments in the film, especially in the final act of the film.
I am not one to comment on the technical aspects of a film too often. However, I really enjoyed the cinematography of the film. It was creepy and eerie how they seem to give off the Pleasantville vibe even with all the sinister events that was going on. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Alexandre Desplat and the score of the film. The score fits this film in every way possible.
This was an enjoyable film, but I would caution viewers in one area. If you are not a fan of previous films written by the Coen Brothers, then this may not be your slice of pie. As I mentioned before, they have a style with their writing that is very unique in its quirkiness and pacing. I really enjoyed the film, though I kind of figured out some of the plot points before they were revealed.
Suburbicon will be one of these films that will reach people through word of mouth. The down side will be that the appeal is not large, and it may have to contend with more family oriented films. The film has already been released in the U.S. with a debut of only $2.8 million and a less than stellar review. I personally don’t like the site Rotten Tomatoes, but according to the Critics Consensus, the film is ” A disappointing misfire for director George Clooney, Suburbicon attempts to juggle social satire, racial commentary, and murder mystery — and ends up making a mess of all three.”
I disagree, but that is the point of films sometimes, we all have different point of views. To give this a grade score, I would give the movie a B+ or if you prefer a numeric reference, an 8 out of 10. If there are varying degrees of the score it would be on the low-end of an 8… if that even clears things up.
Will you be seeing Suburbicon? Do you like the Coen Brothers? What about George Clooney and Matt Damon team ups? Let us know your thoughts and reviews in the comments below.