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Suburbicon – Movie Review

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Suburbicon – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

Satire is a tricky beast, especially when dealing with a subject as heated as race. George Clooney clearly wants to approach the topic in Suburbicon and those are ultimately the strongest parts of the film. However, it fights for screen time with an entirely separate screenplay by the Coen Brothers. Together, the film still ends up being a solid commentary on 1950s and even modern Americana. Yet one wishes the decision had been made to have these two subplots occupy their own movies. One can easily see Jordan Peele tackling the race storyline and creating a dynamic and frightening film about the African American’s place in white society.

Suburbicon starts brilliantly with a fake infomercial for the 1950s neighbourhood Matt Damon and two Julianne Moores reside in. It is hilarious and pointed in the most perfect way, but sets up a film we don’t entirely get to see. Clooney doesn’t take long to show the prejudice of the town behind the white picket fences. It’s clear who he is satirizing and there is a real story behind the black family moving into a white community. Clooney does not shy away from the prejudices of the time, yet the film is also remarkably relevant. Having seen the film only a few weeks after the horrible Charlottesville marches, it makes one wince knowing how little has changed since the ‘50s.

However, the main storyline is not about the Meyers family, but rather the Lodges. While this part of the film is solid, it feels like its own plot that doesn’t entirely connect with the only major subplot. The Lodges are merely there for the obvious theme about how ignorance and prejudice are one and the same. It’s a necessary, but hardly subtle message. The most interesting element from this arc is how the young son Nicky is clearly the smartest person in the room. We figure out his father’s intentions the same way Nicky does and it is entertaining watching all of this unravel.

Oscar Isaac provides one of the other highlights, popping in and clearly enjoying himself. One almost gets the sense Isaac is channeling the young George Clooney of Out of Sight and Ocean’s Eleven. He manages to be conniving and smart in his screen time. The frequent themes common in Joel and Ethan Coen’s work are certainly on display and one understands why Clooney saw humour in the material. There are constant funny portions before we’re sent back to the horror next door. Clooney just needed to have the two stories gel better for a stronger experience. Nonetheless, production designer James D. Bissell, director of photography Robert Elswit and composer Alexandre Desplat capture that 1950s aesthetic perfectly.

Reflecting on Suburbicon, there is one solid movie and one excellent film that have been combined into one decent picture. The story of the Meyers family really deserved to be fleshed out and made a movie of its own. George Clooney is a good director from time to time, but one does begin to imagine what that true story would be like under the eyes of an African-American filmmaker. This is hard-hitting material and it’s odd for it to be combined with this Coens Brothers dark comedy. One almost starts to edit the two films in their head. Thankfully, the film as a whole has a sharpness and satiric edge certainly needed in today’s age.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison