In the model, utopian-like neighbourhood of Suburbicon’s newly built houses, a disquiet is growing. In its all-white neighbourhood, its first coloured family has moved in and its residents are not happy. When young Nicky Lodge is instructed to play ball with the newcomer’s son, neither his life nor that of his family will ever be the same again.
‘Suburbicon’ starts with good intentions…
Thoughtfully played out, and made with the same attention to detail as his ‘Goodnight and Good Luck’, Director George Clooney’s ‘Suburbicon’ starts with good intentions. In what seems like a parable-like take on racial integration and the racism it exposes, the plot suddenly jolts into becoming a murder mystery instead.
From a script penned by the Coen Brothers, this shift in tone becomes increasingly intentional, so as to obscure the plot’s central murder in amongst in an atmosphere of racial persecution. However in creating this subterfuge, it only highlights another crime that is also hidden in plain sight: an artistic one.
For anyone who has seen ‘Fargo’ or its excellent spin-off TV series, they will be instantly familiar with the plot and key characters of ’Suburbicon’. Playing out the same central dilemma with the same escalating, farcical outcomes, this unfortunately mires what started out feeling like an acerbic civil rights satire into a limp rerun of ‘Fargo’s’ main themes and characters.
Saved in part by another scene-stealing turn from Oscar Isaacs’s insurance claim investigator, the rest of the cast ably deliver what you would expect from what ostensibly feels like a Coen Brothers movie. From Matt Damon’s broken glasses to Julianne Moore’s triple character performance, everyone looks the part but Noah Lupe as young Nicky and Gary Basaraba as Uncle Mitch bring the most credibility – which in turn becomes the story’s intent. However from what ostensibly starts as ‘the world of adults and the lies they tell’ as seen from a child’s point of view, ’Suburbicon’s’ focus drifts into predictable Coen-like absurdity with its most redeeming scene left to its very closing moments.
In the end, ’Suburbicon’ is not George Clooney’s best film. Nor is it the Coen Brothers. It is however very well-made and features solid, committed performances. That said, if you’re in any way familiar with the Coen Brothers’s previous movies, plot lines or central conflicts then this is one neighbourhood you might want to avoid unless you fancy a trip down their memory lane.