With mystery films, it’s often said that trailers should be avoided, and that going in blind is the best way to watch them. Suburbicon is an exception to this rule, as the final product bears very little resemblance to what the marketing promised. Far bleaker than expected, George Clooney’s take on a Coen brothers script is darkly entertaining and unpredictable, but misses the mark nearly as frequently as it hits it.
The town that lends its name to the title is impeccably designed, a perfect snapshot of what conservative white people in 1959 thought life should look like. Suburbicon’s haughtily prejudiced sense of calm is shattered by both the moving-in of the town’s first black family, and a brutal home invasion on the Lodge family.
Lodge patriarch Gardner (Matt Damon) is powerless to stop these men from killing his wife Ruth and hurting his sister-in-law Maggie (both played by Julianne Moore) and young son Nicky (Noah Jupe). From this point, the plot starts to veer intriguingly into the leftfield, with carefully-timed reveals uncovering nasty truths. Twisty performances from Damon and Moore create a pervading sense of the sinister, though it’s Oscar Isaac who steals the film entirely with a jittery mile-a-minute energy that arrives at just the right time.
Far, far less effective is Suburbicon’s handling of race relations in a subplot that barely connects to the main story and just seems pointlessly mean-spirited. As bigoted hysteria sends the town into a frenzy, so too does the script’s climax lose sight of its own story and characters, with a series of decisions that shatter the suspension of disbelief.
It’s a crying shame, as there’s a lot of really good, blackly comic stuff in Suburbicon, but you can tell why the Coens originally left this screenplay on the shelf.
CAST: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Glenn Fleshler, Noah Jupe
DIRECTOR: George Clooney
WRITERS: George Clooney, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Grant Heslov
SYNOPSIS: A home invasion rattles a quiet family town.