George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, Suburbicon, is most likely going to be the biggest letdown of the year. Usually, films are criticized for trying too hard, but this film achieves the rare feat of trying far too little. The comedic moments are nonexistent and the lesson it tries to teach about race in America has already been done before by much better films. Flat and dull, this is a tonally misaligned and unengaging misfire from beginning to end.
The film is set in the fictional town of Suburbicon, a Nuclear Age 1950’s suburb. We follow the Lodge family as their lives quickly spiral downward. The family consists of four members: the father Gardener (Matt Damon), the mother Rose (Julianne Moore), the aunt Margaret (also Julianne Moore), and the son Nicky (Noah Jupe).
One night two men break into the house and tie up the family in the kitchen. Each one of them is chloroformed, which ends up killing Rose. Margaret quickly steps into the role of being the mother, but Nicky is suspicious of these chain of events and feels that something else is going on behind the scenes. While the Lodger family is dealing with unfortunate circumstances, the Meyers, an African American family, have moved into the all-white neighborhood. The residents immediately begin discriminating the new neighbors by staging protests and rallies around the Meyer’s home.
These two stories occur at the same time but are mutually separate. The big issue is that these two stories shouldn’t be together in the same film, which is a problem that can be blamed on the writers. After picking up an old comedic home invasion script from the Coens, Clooney and Grant Heslov added the Meyers family as social commentary on the recent racial issues our country has been experiencing. This addition creates a gigantic tonal gap between the darkly comedic Lodger family and the serious Meyer family. Having this gap prevents the film becoming any bit funny or dramatic.
What’s weird is that even though this is a Coen brothers script, the film is very unfunny and offers little laughs. There were some moments where I smiled, but never where I caught myself laughing. I won’t blame the Coens for this since they were barely involved with the project and the script had been redone by Clooney and Heslov.
The one good thing about the film is the camera work by Robert Elswit. The look of the 1950’s is recreated perfectly with bright colors and sharp imaging. The white picket fences shine brightly along with the yellow gleam of the cars. A highlight is the opening title sequence that introduces the audience to the Suburbicon neighborhood.
The biggest problem with the film along with the writing is the acting. It is almost jaw-dropping how bad the acting is given the talent surrounding the project. Every character has little depth and isn’t interesting enough for us to care about them. Matt Damon can’t decide how he wants to play his character, struggling to choose between portraying Gardner as a lifeless average Joe or a dark madman that is unsuspectingly evil. Julianne Moore is just alright as the typical 1950’s woman. She tries to show off her dark side throughout but it never amounts to anything. Oscar Isaac is delightfully enjoyable as the overconfident insurance investigator, but he doesn’t show up until an hour in and barely gets any screen time.
Suburbicon is not a terrible film, but it’s definitely the most disappointing one of the year. Every aspect of the film has issues and they all stem from Clooney’s inability to make the story interesting. Skip this film and go watch Get Out again if you want to watch a good comedy that also teaches about racial issues in America.