Suburbicon - This Messy Movie Doesn't Rock, Doesn't Not Rock Either
Dir: George Clonney
Starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore (times two), Oscar Isaac, Noah Jupe
As with Matt Damon’s other autumnal offering (Downsizing), Suburbicon bites off more than it knows how to chew on thematically and ends up something of a mess. But it’s still a good mess to watch.
The blame for this more than likely falls on Clooney and his writing partner Grant Heslov. Clooney unearthed the original script from the Coens, (dating back to circa 1986 apparently), a tale of deepest darkest doings amongst ordinary folk driven to acts of desperation, in a perfect model of a suburban town. The Coens had abandoned said script some years ago, but Clooney saw something in it. He and Heslov also saw something in marrying it to a contemporary feeling (though not contemporary set) look at racial divides in America, using the real life example of a black couple who moved into the all-white enclave of Levittown, Pennsylvania in the 1950s, creating near riot-like responses to their very presence.
Both strands here are interesting in and of themselves. Put them together, as Clooney does here, and it is not a happy marriage at all. Neither side sits well with the other, with the Damon story often feeling neglected, and the racial subplot becoming more and more in the wrong film at the wrong time, as it escalates in the background, too often feeling like it’s being hammered into and onto the foreground.
That said, sometimes a mess of a movie can still be something worth watching, and that is definitely the case with Clooney’s cut and shunt. Damon, who now really seems to be moving more and more into that everyman mode, here takes it to a much darker place than before, as a button down financial worker who, following a home invasion that takes the life of his wheelchair bound wife (Moore mark 1), begins to steer further and further away from whatever moral compass he once had. Things spiral further out of control when Isaac’s doubting insurance agent shows up and starts questioning all involved, involving the wife’s sister (Moore mark 2) who has just moved in.
This is all going swell – so blackly comic, so excessive, so much fun for us. But then that whole racial subplot keeps rearing its – admittedly – ugly head, and suddenly we’re in a different movie. With a different tone.
Overall, it’s a shame that Clooney and co haven’t managed to marry their disparate elements here. But there’s a reason we look at car crashes. And as car crashes go, this one’s a doozy!
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