After a home invasion goes wrong and his wife is killed, Gardener (Matt Damon) allows his sister in law to move into his home to care for his young son. As time goes on however, Gardener’s carefully ordered world in the quiet suburb of Suburbicon begins to fall apart, when money owed is not paid and uncomfortable questions are asked. Meanwhile, an African-American family has moved unto the area, whose presence seems to be upsetting for the rest of the residents.
Directed by George Clooney, and written by the Coen Brothers, Suburbicon is the story of a seemingly perfect US suburban neighbourhood, and the darkness that goes on behind closed doors. The idea of the white family being the ones causing instability, but the black family being perceived as the source of trouble is an interesting one, but as with much of the film, the lack of balance throughout throws this into a troublesome area.
Matt Damon leads the cast as Gardener Lodge, and although it is clear that Damon is well able for the role, it is hard not to imagine director George Clooney taking on the character and injecting it with a bit more fun and a bit more incredulity at the situation he has fund himself in. Julianne Moore seems to be having a little more fun as the uptight but dangerous Margaret, whose presence in the house is one that throws it into turmoil, but it is Oscar Isaac in a small role as claims investigator, that is obviously having the time of his life, and he brings some much needed heightened comedy and farce to the film. Such a shame that he is gone too soon. The rest of the cast features Steve Monroe, Noah Jupe – who is a wonderful find – Nancy Daly, KArimah Westbrook, Leith M. Burke, Mather Zickel and Vince Cefalu.
The screenplay, written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney and Grant Heslov, feels remarkably political, which seems to take the edge off the farcical feel of the film, which tries to fight its way back in the final act, but somehow ends up feeling shoehorned in, rather than intentional. The dialogue is strong, however, and the mystery is carefully unravelled throughout the film, but in trying to make Suburbicon a thriller set in the late 1950s, the screenplay struggles against the inevitable farcical and comedic feel of a film about insurance fraud and murder in a perfect suburb.
As director, George Clooney heightens the world of the film rather well, but never truly manages to marry the feel of thriller and comedy that the film is so desperately trying to create. The performances are strong, the dialogue cleverly delivered, and there are some moments of pure comedic genius, but these are fleeting, and few and far between.
In all, Suburbicon is an enjoyable tale of money, deception and love, but the tone of the film is never quite right, meaning that strong performances and a political message eventually fall flat.