A Brief History
On October 27, 2017, Paramount Pictures releases Suburbicon, a noir-ish “dramadey” written by the Coen Brothers and directed by George Clooney. With the star power of Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, the film is sure to make a major splash on the movie scene. We watched a pre-screening event on October 23, 2017 and will share our thoughts on the film.
The Coen Brothers have brought us a string of somewhat odd, but highly successful films, such as Fargo, The Big Lebowski (one of our favorites), No Country for Old Men, and True Grit (the remake). George Clooney gets behind the camera this time, making his unmistakable moral interpretation on the script. Speaking of the script, the film is actually an odd amalgamation of a murder comedy previously written by the Coen Brothers way back in 1986 and a major subplot of events that happened in Levittown, Pennsylvania in the 1950’s.
The main plot consists of a Matt Damon led family in a brand spanking new development suburb of an unknown city, with Julianne Moore playing 3 different roles. Damon gets in trouble with the mob, and must take drastic steps to defend his family from his own blunders. This main story line is the murder and film noir part, with a little bit of comedy thrown in. The amount of comedy is not enough to make the movie “funny,” but is enough to take away much of the dark tension that would otherwise be in the gut of the audience.
The subplot concerned the backyard neighbors of Damon’s family, an African American husband and wife with a son the age of Damon’s son. The events depicted as these African Americans are rejected by the otherwise all White population of Suburbicon are not funny at all, and are probably not meant to be. The juxtaposition of the main plot and subplot mesh at the point that the 2 boys play together and seem to become friends, though this angle is not developed all that far. To be honest, the prejudice and discrimination experienced by the Meyers (the Black family) is a little distracting from the main story, and serves as a blatant George Clooney attempt at social commentary. Nonetheless, this part of the movie is also well acted, well directed, and gets the point across.
In spite of the less than perfect melding of the two main story lines, and despite the failure of the film to clearly define what type of movie it wants to be, the fact is that the movie kept our attention and entertained us, although leaving us feeling a little weird at the end. Other audience members seemed to react similarly, with the laughs and gasps in the right places while appearing to pay close attention throughout the film. A few audience members seemed taken aback by the portrayal of the blatant racism depicted in the movie, but in fairness to Clooney, the events shown were taken from real life incidents. (The fact that this sort of rejection of African American families happened in my lifetime is sobering.)
One way or another, Suburbicon does entertain, and fans of Matt Damon and Julianne Moore will appreciate their excellent performances. Other roles were well cast and well acted, including the young boys. (A curious fact is that Josh Brolin was to be in the film, but his parts were edited out.) The movie is best described as different, but like other Coen Brothers films, different can be a good thing. A well made and entertaining film, Suburbicon may leave conflicted, but it will definitely leave you entertained. Fans of George Clooney and the Coen Brothers will certainly add this film to their list of favorites.
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