Suburbicon15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
You have to admire George Clooney’s career trajectory; not only did he smoothly make the transition from TV star (playing heart-throb doc Doug Ross in E.R) to film A-lister, he’s also dabbled successfully behind the camera, with this being his sixth credit directing. As well as manage to get paid a whole heap of coffee beans for sipping the brown stuff in TV ads.
He’s also worked with some impressive talent over the years, including Steven Soderburgh, David O. Russell, Wes Anderson and Anton Corbijn. He teams up once again with the Coen brothers here, whom he’s worked with a number of times, with the bros on writing duty, while Clooney directs.
Add to the mix working with his buddy Matt Damon, accompanied by Oscar winner Julianne Moore, and the über talented Oscar Isaac, and you have an air tight, money-making project guaranteed. Or so you would think...
Welcome to Suburbicon, a housing development, like so many others springing up in the fifties in the US, that were self-contained communities that catered for all your needs – as long as you were white.
When an African-American family move in, young Nicky (Noah Jupe) soon finds he has a new friend to play with. If only the rest of the community were as welcoming. The truth however is polar opposite; the white population rally aggressively against the new arrivals, making their racist views openly known.
Nicky doesn’t notice much of the hoo-hah however, as he’s wrapped up in family worries of his own. After a raid on his home, where his dad Gardner (Damon), mum Rose and Aunt Margaret (both played by Moore) and himself are knocked out, all wake up in hospital to find that his mum didn’t make it and died soon after.
Gardner and Margaret are soon called into the police station to view a line-up of potential culprits, which Nicky manages to sneak into. Standing there, on the other side of the screen, are two very familiar faces. But to Nicky’s bemusement, both his dad and aunt say nothing. It’s then that he starts to realise that something very fishy is going on in the suburbs.
Suburbicon is the perfect example of a recipe, despite containing impressive ingredients, just inexplicably failing when dished up and ready to serve.
There’s clearly an intriguing story bubbling under the surface, but shockingly the Coen’s struggle with conveying anything remotely entertaining off the page. Clooney should have concentrated on either the race issues, or the home invasion, but by merging both into the same storyline, the film lacks any kind of cohesion.
Perhaps there may have been more clarity if the Coen’s had decided to direct as well, but even then there’s no guarantee that it would have worked.
It’s obvious what the film wanted to be; it wanted to pay homage to Hitchcock at his most suspenseful, accompanied by a Bernard Herrmann inspired soundtrack, whilst also giving a nod to film noir in general, and Double Indemnity specifically. But it struggles to do any of these things competently, resulting in a strangely muddled mess.
Ultimately the project is akin to a super-group, containing a stupid amount of musical talent, which simply couldn’t hit the right notes. Suburbicon then, rather disappointingly, is one long bum note. So much so that here’s hoping there’s no rumours of a re-union anytime soon.