FILM REVIEW: Suburbicon
DIRECTOR:Â George Clooney
SYNOPSIS:Â Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic, suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns — the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit and violence.
The Black Comedy Thatâ€™s Neither Dark Nor Funny Enough
Review byÂ Melissa Lee.
Unfortunately, Suburbicon fails to deliver on almost every count.
While the first ten or so minutes are a respectably solid introduction to the picture perfect, lawn sprinkler, white-bread world of the fictional town of Suburbicon, the rest of the film quickly deteriorates into something half-hearted and limp â€” a mere shadow of an idea being presented, rather than a fully formed, fleshed-out narrative.
Itâ€™s a shame that while Clooney seems to meander apathetically behind the camera, his cast appears to follow his lead in front of it. One can practically feel Julianne Moore trying as hard as possible, but ultimately, her character(s â€” she plays two sisters) isnâ€™t written with nearly enough depth as she valiantly tries to muster. The two antagonists of the film are mildly concerning at best, and I found myself wondering who to blame for the fact that Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell werenâ€™t fully utilised to the heights of their villainous potential.
Perhaps the most confusing part of Suburbicon is that as much as you can see how hard itâ€™s trying, the places where it appears to consciously give up altogether are just as evident. The perspective of the Lodge familyâ€™s youngest, Nicky (Noah Jupe), is easily the most interesting one, given the filmâ€™s use of blissfully ignorant, simplistic small-town life as its narrative foundation. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, director Clooney fails to grab hold of that with both hands, choosing instead to spend far too much time in the head of Nickyâ€™s rigid, flatly uninteresting father, Gardner (Matt Damon).
Twelve-year- old Jupe acts circles around his on-screen father Damon, who seems to have forgotten every lesson on nuance heâ€™s ever learned and opted instead to do his best imitation of a piece of cardboard. Next to Jupeâ€™s wonderful work with body language and movement, Damonâ€™s wooden performance falls even flatter. (Going on a brief tangent here to say that Iâ€™m now really looking forward to watching Jupe in the film adaptation of Stephen Chboskyâ€™s Wonder, slated to hit local theatres later this year.)
The most affecting storyline in the film is that of a black family moving into the all-white neighbourhood of Suburbicon. Eventually, even that plotline fails to reach any sort of real climax or resolution, and itâ€™s one of the biggest letdowns of the film, considering the subplotâ€™s potential to make important commentary on racial tensions in the U.S. today.
Indeed, the only shining light in the film is Oscar Isaacâ€™s magnetic performance as claims investigator Bud Cooper. Isaac swaggers about in tan-suited, moustached glory, and truth be told, seems to be only one on set with a firm grasp on what heâ€™s doing. He delivers to the best of his smooth-talking ability, but the overall screen-time allotted to him is lamentably short. Still, with every moment Isaac is on screen, the entire film seems to lift with him â€” even if itâ€™s only for a moment.
Frustratingly enough, one canâ€™t help but think Suburbicon could have been a good film. Thanks to lacklustre direction and equally dispassionate performances, Suburbicon almost feels like a first draft of the film that was supposed to eventually become Suburbicon. As a whole, the film just isnâ€™t enough â€” not thrilling enough to be a thriller, and not darkly funny enough to be a satisfying black comedy.
ABOUT THE WRITER