Suburbicon: Clooney-Coen Collaboration Craves Cohesion
Julianne MooreMatt Damon...
In 1 Cinema
Known for defying genre conventions, crafting masterful dialogue and delivering a distinctive satirical bite to every picture, the Coen brothers are very much of a love-them-or-hate-them duo. Suburbicon, their latest cinematic offering directed by Mr. George Clooney – who also helped pen the script together with longtime writing partner Grant Heslov – is a strange one, naturally. However, although entertaining in parts, there is very little connective tissue between the two main running storylines, creating a disappointing disconnect which prevents the movie from truly coming together in the end.
Set in the early 1950’s, the story is centered in and around the secluded – and mainly white – suburban community of Suburbicon, which is soon rattled when an African-American family, the Meyers (Westbrook and Burke) and their young son, Andy (Espinosa), move in. Shocked and appalled at their presence, the angry residents soon begin going out of their way to make their new neighbours feel uncomfortable, hoping to get them to a point where they would eventually move out.
Meanwhile, another Suburbicon resident, Gardner (Damon) is struggling with the loss of his wheelchair-bound wife, Rose (Moore), who is murdered during a home-invasion which has left him, his young son Nicky (Jupe) and sister-in-law Margaret (also Moore) unharmed. The killers in question, Ira (Fleshler) and Louis (Hassell), got away scot-free, leaving Gardner’s sense of security rattled, forcing him to ask Margaret to move in full-time and help him raise Nicky. Tracking down the killers is Sheriff Hightower (Conley), however the investigation is stalled when Gardner and Margaret were unable to pull out the killers from a police line-up, whilst the appearance of an insurance fraud agent, Bud Cooper (Isaac) ends up adding even more frustration to proceedings.
Provocative, sporadically funny and sometimes just downright strange, Suburbicon is very much a Coen brothers film. The screenplay was written all the way back in 1986 and shelved for many years.
Having worked together on four films including Burn After Reading and O, Brother Where Art Thou, the Coen-Clooney collaboration makes for somewhat of a mixed bag with the film offering various sensations throughout its slow and deliberate proceedings, ranging from frightening, to funny, to confusing and at times even laborious. The two parallel storylines are interesting in their own right and speak great truths about society.
However, merging them together doesn’t really pan out all that well with the story suffering from a jarring tonal shift which disturbs the film’s flow in many ways. The performances are adequate, but again, not exactly memorable, with maybe the exception of the young Noah Jupe who is, technically, the central character of the story.
Interesting but not exactly sure which direction it wants to go, George Clooney’s sixth directorial effort will be appreciated by the fans of his work and those who enjoy this particular type of storytelling. To be fair, there is something terribly unnerving when it comes to pristine communities such as the one described here which hide their unspeakable evils behind picket-white fences. However, it’s truly disappointing that it never really comes together as an effective whole; the story is there, however, the final execution is not.