|It's important to take breaks between murders.|
"Welcome to Suburbicon. A town of great wonder and excitement. Built with the promise of prosperity for all."
The Coen Brothers have had their fair share of directing (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men), however they have at times collaborated with on writing duties and/or passed the directing duties to somebody else. Some of those have been well received and successful (Unbroken, Bridge of Spies), while others are better left forgotten (Crimewave, Gambit). It's almost as if they knew which screenplays to keep for themselves, and which ones to "dump" onto somebody else's lap. What I'm left wondering, is if those few failures could've worked out better if the Coens had taken the reins instead?
My Impression of Suburbicon
At first glance with Suburbicon, it seems that the Coens made the right decision to merely go for a co-writing credit, by passing the directing torch over to George Clooney (The Monuments Men). Especially since Clooney's previous works with long time friend Grant Heslov haven't generally had that favorable of an outcome, it only makes sense that the critics have not had things nice to say about this film. However, I put it to you to to look a little deeper into the story, and you may possibly see something more than what's at face value. It may be difficult though, because despite Suburbicon's many attributes, things seem to drag along for large chunks of time. The payoff is is very good, yet I'm still not sure that it was worth the wait to get there. The Coen's dark comedic style is all over this, yet it's difficult at times to tell where they stop, and where Clooney/Heslov begins. There's a moral message that the movie tries to subtly smack upside your head about judging a book by its cover, which left me thinking that the story was too smart for its own good. The racial tension subplot works well in parts, but in whole it gets in the way of the main story by coming off as exploitative. There's also plenty of missed opportunities with characters and situations, that would've taken this movie into a memorable status. I believe that in all of those failures, that is where the directing experience of the Coens was needed the most. Production wise though, the 1950's never looked so detailed. Everything's made to look nice and tidy, while more dastardly things go on behind closed curtains.
Matt Damon's (The Martian) lead role is nearly silent and wooden for the entire picture. It's interesting for a bit, until it becomes clear that his talent is wasted before the end. Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski) is even more disappointing than Damon. In dual roles, she never leaves an impact nor does her character make much sense in the grand scheme of things. More often than not, Suburbicon is seen from the perspective of Damon's onscreen son played by Noah Jupe (The Night Manager), as he takes in all of the chaos before him. My level of sympathy for him got stronger, as he's subjected to indifferent parents and strange incidents. As someone who starts off as a questionable character, Gary Basaraba's (The Accountant) Uncle Mitch turns out to be one of Suburbicon's most decent people. Glen Fleshler (God's Pocket) as the head mobster/loan shark, looks and sounds straight out of a Coen's classic. And Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) gives in two scenes, what this film needed in its entirety; intrigue and energy. It's a shame he couldn't have stuck around longer.
|It would've been easier to harass her if they hadn't put up the fence first. Dumb bigots.|
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of Suburbicon
The Good- The happy mailman's rude awakening. As Jupe's character stumbles across odd and shady behavior, I couldn't help but be reminded of the 1989 cult horror/dark comedy classic "Parents". The Final act is funny, engaging, ironic, and everything that the first two acts should've been.
The Bad- If you're going to devote an entire subplot to a family hit with the bigotry of the time, wouldn't it have been better to have actually shown them together as a family, instead of a few scattered scenes that come off as "Those black people over there are being mistreated"?
The Ugly- What was Daddy doing with that paddle to Auntie as she was bent over the ping pong table?
Final ThoughtsAs with last year's Hail, Caesar! by the Coens, Suburbicon is a mishmash of disappointment that works better as a movie trailer, than as an actual movie. There is some really good stuff in here with tons of potential, but just not enough to justify sitting through for two hours. It's not funny enough, provocative enough, nor dark enough to add to the Coen's collection. It is however good enough for George and Grant, based on their track record. So sit back with a tall glass of milk and a karma-filled sandwich, guys. You've earned it.
Rating- 5.5 out of 10
R | 1h 45min | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 27 October 2017 (USA)
A home invasion rattles a quiet family town.
Director: George Clooney
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac