‘Suburbicon’ is as much a mess as it is a good time
American cinema has a long tradition of taking the quiet suburban utopia and portraying it as a living hell for its inhabitants. It can be seen across all genres, from the drama “American Beauty,” where a father is tormented by his failing marriage and his lust for his teenage daughter's best friend, to the horror film “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” where the seemingly mundane lives of a group of friends are turned into a literal -- you guessed it -- nightmare.
“Suburbicon” continues that tradition, albeit on the back of a plot that has been beaten to death. However, this lack of originality doesn’t discount the pure fun of the film. It is a joy ride through a family’s turmoil, taking many twists and turns that were completely unexpected based on the trailers. The film’s deceiving trailers were by far its biggest strength, glazing over the film’s weaknesses just enough to make the movie enjoyable.
As acclaimed actor George Clooney’s first directing credit since “The Monuments Men,” there were high expectations for this film. The actor-turned-director teaming up with the writing of the Coen brothers, created a great deal of intrigue. What the team delivered was interesting, to say the least.
If you had watched the trailers for “Suburbicon” prior to seeing the film, you may have thought you had walked into the wrong movie. Without giving anything away, whoever cut the trailers for this film should be given an award in their own right -- they were deliberately misleading. The film that was depicted in the trailers was virtually unrecognizable from what was shown to the audience. Admittedly, without this trick, the film may not have been as enjoyable.
The plot could not have been more predictable. With the exception of a couple quirky twists that were legitimately charming -- like the entire arch of Oscar Isaac’s character known simply as “Roger,” who investigates life insurance fraud, or Gardner’s (Matt Damon) near-death experience with a fire truck -- the film was bland from a narrative standpoint. There is a major twist toward the beginning of the film that could have been seen from a mile away.
The actors were able to pick up where the writers were slacking. Matt Damon, Oscar Isaac and Julianne Moore all put together convincing performances, especially when the filmmakers decided to have Moore play a pair of twins. Child actor Noah Jupe outshined all the other performances, and truly made this film. He demonstrates the greatest range of emotion throughout the film, from the terror of watching his mother die to his slow realization that there was much more to his mother’s death than a simple murder.
One of the greatest flaws of the film was the inclusion of a subplot where the Meyers’ -- a black couple (Leith M. Burke and Karimah Westbrook) and their son Andy (Tony Espinosa) -- move into Suburbicon. There was a blatant social commentary here, but it did little to support (and nothing to improve) the plot of the film. The only time there was ever an interaction between the Meyers and any other main character was when Andy and Nicky begin to build a friendship.
As a whole, “Suburbicon” has little direction from a narrative standpoint. It serves only to take the viewer on a Shakespearean misadventure of a botched crime that is fueled more on its charm than its actual filmmaking merits. “Suburbicon” has a death toll with each subsequent death becoming more ridiculous than the last, keeping the viewer at the very least engaged. For a budding director, it would normally be seen as a triumph. But considering Clooney’s Hollywood reputation and connections, “Suburbicon” could have, and should have, been much more.
“Suburbicon” was released October 2
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