Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac
Director: George Clooney
Running Time: 105 mins
Suburbicon is an American film about an idyllic suburban community in 1950s America that plunges into chaos following the arrival of new residents and a sinister home invasion.
This is the sort of film that proves, no matter how messy and frankly ridiculous a story is, if you push on energetically, then you can still make a thoroughly entertaining film. Although Suburbicon is lumbered with a dog’s dinner of a narrative, it’s filled to the brim with that energy, and along with bright, dynamic directing, it actually proves a surprisingly entertaining and even exciting watch.
But first of all, let’s talk about this mess of a story. In short, a more anarchic take on American Beauty‘s damning critique of the facade of American suburbia, the film gets all too carried away with its genre-breaking sensibilities to remember its main theme, with a mad crime story taking over from what starts off as a rather tense and intriguing look into the fundamental problems with suburban society.
With the Coen Brothers and director George Clooney behind the screenplay, there’s no shortage of talent in the writers’ room, but as is often the case with the Coens’ movies, a passion for the ridiculous does get out of hand with Suburbicon, and Clooney, taking clear influence from the Coen Brithers’ irreverent style of dark comedy, doesn’t do enough to really keep the film’s feet on the ground.
The story does start off in intriguing fashion, with the slow rumblings of discontent among an entirely white community upon the arrival of the first black family into a supposedly idyllic town. Followed up by a striking and intense home invasion sequence, Suburbicon gets off to a great start, only to then take those two stories in completely different directions, and never really tie them together.
On the one hand, that home invasion breeds a hugely exciting and darkly entertaining crime and murder plot that, although getting totally out of hand towards the finish, is filled with the sort of anarchic energy that makes a great Coen Brothers movie, and that director Clooney has a real glee for.
On the other hand, however, the film also tries to keep its focus on suburban racism and the hypocrisy of a community’s supposed perfection, trying to bring in a more serious and sobering account of the troubles encountered in American suburbia. However, as worthy as that focus may be, Suburbicon’s attempts to bring it into play with the much more energetic crime plot are terrible, occasionally ham-fisting a jarring and unfortunately irrelevant look at what feels like a totally different story into the movie.
As a result, as much fun as its core crime story may prove, and despite hugely energetic directing from George Clooney, the whole film comes across as a real mess, flipping back and forth between its gleefully dark and anarchic tendencies and more grounded, serious storytelling. If it had stuck more boldly to one side or the other, then the film would have been a whole lot better, but it unfortunately can’t contain its desire to tell both stories at the same time.
Overall, then, Suburbicon is an enjoyable film, but not without its many, many flaws. At times a gleefully anarchic crime story that takes aim at the facade of suburban society, and at others a more serious account of racism and prejudice in those communities, it’s a very messy watch, but with good energy at its best moments, it just about does enough to prove an entertaining film in the end, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.