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Review: Suburbicon

(L-r) Julianne Moore and Matt Damon star in Paramount Pictures' SUBURBICON

George Clooney is one of those actors who hasn’t had a great run of films when getting behind the camera. For whatever reason, he hasn’t been able to accomplish much in terms of fanfare or critical acclaim when looking at his work as a director. I suppose one day might come where he’ll be able to make that great movie that he’s been trying so hard to create, but Suburbicon doesn’t lead me to believe that he is anywhere near close to achieving that goal.

In Clooney’s latest attempt at directing, he takes us to an idyllic neighborhood known as Suburbicon. On the surface, it seems like the perfect place to raise a family as it has all of the features that people would crave. However, a series of events during the summer of 1959 will test theatimage of the community as Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) and the rest of the unique Lodge family that he heads will find themselves engaged in murderous levels of deceit, betrayal and violence.

Suburbicon begins well enough as it introduces us to a world of falsehoods and prejudice in the 1950’s. This sets the film up to be something intriguing as we get to know a little about the neighborhood and the era in which places like this began to spring up. While these early scenes are indeed interesting, you start to wonder just how Clooney can keep it up as he eventually introduces the audience to Gardner Lodge and the rest of the characters that the film is focused on.

A crucial error here that does severe damage to this movie is the fact that the set up that we see has no connection with the rest of the movie that follows Gardner Lodge and his dysfunctional family. You would like to think that this would somehow blend together eventually, but it never really does. In fact, the subplot centered around the lone black family in this racist neighborhood only serves to benefit one scene of the movie that doesn’t even need to be managed how it is.

For some people, this will be a problem since Clooney essentially uses the pain of black people to push one aspect of a story that they have absolutely nothing to do with. Using them and their situation just to move one extremely small aspect of the plot forward can be seen as offensive and/or exploitative to some. Using them this way also renders them useless as a whole and simply disrupts the movie’s flow as it gets in the way of actual story from a purely cinematic perspective.

This leads Suburbicon to feel as if it’s a few different movies mushed together while only one of the stories featured has anything even resembling any kind of conclusion. Including the racist elements showcased here for no reason, the rest of what we see goes unresolved as we head toward the end of the film. This could mean that the film was left unfinished by either the writers or the director, but regardless of who’s at fault, it doesn’t look good and makes you question what was going on behind the scenes.

The crazy part about this is that what we see shouldn’t have been as bad as it is. Focusing on race relations back in the 1950’s could have been something that would obviously be considered reasonable, but simply focusing on the main story would have likely made this thing much better than it ended up being. Just about all of these scenes have value, but they’re just handled so poorly that you can’t really get into any of what we’re watching during this uneven motion picture.

Another thing that I have to mention is that this isn’t what you might be anticipating. You might go into it thinking that you’re about to see a dark comedy about revenge. If you’re expecting that, you could be let down by what you actually get. In reality, I actually like the turn this movie takes. It still has the dark comedy, but it decides to move away from the revenge parts. For myself that’s a good thing since that’s something that we’ve been getting in the world of cinema for generations.

Anyway, one thing that did standout as a positive was the acting. Thinking back on it, I don’t remember seeing a bad performance here. With that being the case, it sucks that there isn’t much they could do to improve what we have to sit through. Sometimes, high quality acting can help a movie overcome its flaws or at least hide them to some degree. It’s happened plenty of times and I’m sure it will happen again. Sadly this isn’t one of those cases as the performances will be drowned by all of the flaws of Suburbicon.

In order for it to work, Suburbicon would need a complete make over. That clearly won’t happen due to it already being released to the masses. What will likely happen is that we will all forget that this was made even though there are some things happening here that should be acknowledged. That’s especially true for the young kids who are in this movie. They’re good enough to deserve attention, but I don’t know if they will be able to get it since people will be so focused on all the things that went wrong after they finish watching.

Director: George Clooney

Matt Damon
Julianne Moore
Noah Jupe
Oscar Isaac
Glenn Fleshler
Alex Hassell
Gary Basaraba
Karma Westbrook
Tony Espinosa
Leith Burke

Film Length: 105 minutes

Release Date: October 27, 2017

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

  • 4/10
    Score - 4/10
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