Published on February 18th, 2018 | by Natalie Salvo
Suburbicon Blu-ray Review
Summary: This black film with a pastel veneer is a confused one that tries to be too many things but doesn’t really do any of them properly.
The idea that something may look picture perfect until you strip away at the veneer is hardly a new one. But at least when it’s been done before in films this was in order to reveal a sinister side to someone or something and it came with a hefty side of self-assurance. These were films that knew precisely what they were and where they were going. While “Suburbicon” has an alluring façade, it is ultimately a confused mess. It’s an uneven story that ambitiously tries to do and cover too much and in the end does so without really getting anything right.
This film is directed by George Clooney and the script was originally written by Joel and Ethan Coen. The latter brothers ultimately rejected it but the film does not shake off its “Fargo”-like tendencies. In the end Clooney and his long-term collaborator, Grant Heslov assumed the reigns and rejigged some things. But the result fails to amount to a cohesive whole. In fact, this film feels like something that is less than the sum total of its different parts, rather than something greater.
Matt Damon stars here as Gardner Lodge in a role that was originally slated for Clooney. Damon put on extra weight for the role and with his beige attire and glasses he looks just like your average Joe and head of a 1950s household (which is when this film is set.) His home is shared with his wife Rose (Julianne Moore) who was left disabled after a car accident and their smart and aware, ten year old son Nicky (Noah Jupe.) A final member of this household is Rose’s sister Margaret (also played by Moore with a slight change in hairstyle.)
The town of Suburbicon is an idyllic one on paper. Its 60,000 residents are predominantly white and seem quite happy with their lots in life. But Cooney and company decide to use this bubble-like environment to expose some small-minded town bigots and racists who show their true colours when a family of African-Americans move into the neighbourhood. This plot seems completely tacked on. While you get the sense that Clooney is trying to make a point about the current state of complacency and racism proliferating America under President Trump, the message is lost because the tone is at odds with the black comedy tone that peppers the remainder of the script.
You see, Lodge’s family look all sweet and innocent but it’s a charade (and kudos to Robert Elswit’s cinematography, Christa Munro’s art direction, Jan Pascale’s set decoration and Jenny Eagan’s costume design because visually, the film is a perfect shade of pastel and is utterly convincing for the period.) The Lodge family have actually gotten involved in loan sharks, the mafia and insurance fraud. When Rose is killed after two men invade the family home, her sister seamlessly steps into her sibling’s shoes and becomes a new lover for Lodge. But Nicky is left wondering what on earth is happening as there are many questions (although the same could also be said for those in the audience who are trying to make sense of all this.) This story attempts to be humorous, melodramatic and thrilling so even within itself it poses some challenges in terms of tone, so when you go and throw in some half-baked social commentary into the mix, it makes things even more muddled than ever before.
Perhaps in another set of hands this film could have been a clever look at a number of different things. Instead, this is a wasted opportunity and an under-developed mishmash of a film by a well-intentioned and indulgent Clooney. A strong cast including big names putting in good performances as well as some visually appealing circumstances are not enough to redeem this perplexingly strange film. You’ll be left scratching your head if you haven’t already lost it.
Director – George Clooney
Actors – Steve Monroe, Gavin Wilde, Landon Gordon, Hope Banks, Karimah Westbrook
Film Genre – Drama
Label – Roadshow
Audio – English (DTS-HD 5.1)
Subtitles – English
Running Time – 104
Aspect Ratio – 2.40:1
Region Coding – B (Blu-Ray)
TV Standard – HD
Rating – MA15+
Consumer Advice – Strong themes and violence
Year of Release – 2017
Primary Format – Movies/TV – Blu-Ray