Suburbicon *1/2

A major misfire from three industry titans. 

Is it worth $10? No 

George Clooney, Matt Damon, Julianne Moore. All Oscar winners, all Hollywood royalty, and all part of the absolute misfire that is “Suburbicon,” a mistake of a movie that will be a stain on all of their careers. How could three people who are so good at what they do veer so far off track?

“Suburbicon” is the name of a small town circa 1959. On the surface the Lodge family represents ‘50s Americana as history likes to remember it: Mom Rose (Moore) stays home, son Nicky (Noah Jupe) goes to school, dad Gardner (Damon) works a corporate job. The safe, small community is self-contained and seemingly perfect for raising a child. Yes, things couldn’t be better for the Lodges, save for the fact that Rose was in a car accident and is now bound to a wheelchair. Regardless, Rose’s twin sister Maggie (Moore again) helps out, so all is happy on the home front.

Then the unthinkable happens: A home invasion leaves Rose dead. “Nothing like this ever happens here,” the local ladies say, but it did happen, and the ugliness of both the town and the Gardner family is exposed. There are cover-ups, betrayals, murders, and an insurance investigator (Oscar Isaac) who smells something fishy. All of this is as predictable as it comes, right down to Gardner and Maggie’s real plans and their subsequent incompetence.

Meanwhile, the subplot features the Myers family, who just moved into the neighborhood. They are African-American, and unwanted. Riots break out in front of their home, and at one point a Confederate flag is left on their window. This blatant racism ultimately has no bearing on the main story, so you have to wonder why it’s included at all. If Clooney, who directed and co-wrote the script, is providing commentary on civil rights or racism, the message doesn’t come through.

The film is also so ignorant that it forgets to have a good guy, a main character who fights for a better world. When there’s no hero viewers don’t get emotionally involved, and leave the theater either angry at the film’s incompetence, or (worse) indifferent to everything they’ve just seen. The only decent human beings are Nicky, who’s an innocent child incapable of protecting himself, and minor supporting characters, such as Nicky’s Uncle Mitch (Gary Basaraba), and that’s not enough.

One suspects Clooney and co-writers Grant Heslov and Joel and Ethan Coen (yes – the Coen Bros., who created the story then passed it to Clooney and Heslov for the screenplay) wanted to show the shadiness that could lie behind the shiny veneer of an idyllic ‘50s family. Sadly, that is completely lost. Instead “Suburbicon” has a mostly humorless, light tone and color palette that belies the darker story elements, and the social commentary doesn’t work on any level.

Clooney, Damon and Moore will be better again, no doubt. But “Suburbicon” is one entry in their canons that you can skip.

Did you know?
A few scenes starring Josh Brolin as a baseball coach were cut from the film after a test screening.

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