Suburbicon, released Oct. 27 and directed by George Clooney, boasts a stunning cast and crew. With writing from Clooney and the Coen brothers and performances from Academy Award winners Julianne Moore and Matt Damon, the film seemingly possesses all crucial components towards achieving award-season glory.
However, infinitely far from a potential best picture winner, Suburbicon is a cookie-cutter Coen brothers film in structure that lacks the interior polish to match the film’s pristine facade. The narrative, based around the cover-up of a severe domestic crime in a seemingly safe, homey neighborhood, feels like Clooney’s rudimentary Fargo set in 1950s suburban America.
Unlike the Oscar-winning 1996 classic starring Frances McDormand and William H. Macy, Suburbicon never quite finds its purpose. At its core, Suburbicon is meant to be a scathing critique of white privilege; police never suspect that Gardner (Damon) and Margaret (Moore) are behind an inept, diabolical plan simply because they are white homeowners in a predominately-white neighborhood. Instead, the entire town is preoccupied with directing its scorn towards the new neighbors only because they are a black family entering an area that wishes to remain segregated.
Though the film’s message of critique is well-intended, the plot in which it’s encompassed is disastrously haphazard. Like Christian Bale in The Prestige or Adam Sandler in any awful Adam Sandler movie, Moore plays both the role of the antagonist Margaret and Margaret’s sister Rose, who is married to Gardner. About twenty minutes after Rose is killed in the opening moments by mobsters in a home invasion, the plot twist of who may or may not be behind the murder is already painfully obvious. Then, it’s essentially Fargo, with Damon’s Gardner attempting to avoid police suspicion for a poorly-planned crime he so obviously committed a la Macy’s Jerry Lundegaard.
While all of the aforementioned madness wildly unfolds, the white privilege narrative is sloppily thrown in as if to give the film an added sense of importance rather than tackle the problem itself. Though Suburbicon‘s one hour and forty-five minute breezy runtime should result in a swift and active drama, it instead contains two narratives that really do require their own storylines.
Suburbicon is an archetypal example of untapped potential, the Greg Oden of the 2017 award-season campaign. Despite a history of collaborative success, the latest partnership of Clooney and the Coen brothers is one for the loss column.
1 1/2 out of 4 shells