Suburbicon (2017)


Directed by George Clooney

Written by Joel and Ethan Coen; George Clooney and Grant Heslov

Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Noah Jupe

Tagline: Welcome to the Neighborhood

In George Clooney’s sixth directorial effort he revisits the Cold War culture he portrayed in his previous films Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night and Good Luck. Matt Damon stars in one of his darker performances as a devious man in the gray flannel suit. Suburbicon was a bold dark comedy written by the Coen brothers over 30 years ago, and one can see the DNA of movies like Fargo and Blood Simple. Clooney and producer Grant Heslov reworked the script into not a perfect movie, an enjoyable and prescient one.

The movie opens with a parody of 1950s documentaries that championed the bright new suburban neighborhoods as new utopias. Then we follow a mailman cheerfully delivering letters until he comes upon a house with an African-American family moving in and his mood quickly changes. At the house next door a boy sits with his mother and aunt and they entice him to play baseball with the “colored boy.”

Matt Damon is an overweight schemer, channeling John Belushi in Neighbors. Julianne Moore plays two roles: wife and sister. Oscar Isaac appears all too briefly as an insurance investigator. Damon shows a good timing for dark comedy and has fun playing against his persona. Noah Jupe, a child actor, gives the best performance and a provides a human element to the film.

Suburbicon sat on the shelf for a few years. Although it has taken a drubbing from critics, I’ve seen few films that better suit the current political mood. The sight of angry white people raging over accepting diversity hits a little too close to home, much as Kathryn Bigelow’s film Detroit did a few months ago. The moral rot that Clooney identifies in 1950s values is a direct slam on the MAGA crowd who consider the era a golden age. 

Suburbicon is a bizarro Spielberg world by way of Rod Serling with dashes of Hitchcock at his devilish best. Some of the uncanny imagery channels the absurdity of the Coens. Suburbicon just might achieve cult classic status.


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