Image: Matt Damon & Julianne Moore make a sinister couple in Suburbicon. © Photograph by Hilary Gayle [Source: IMDB]
Suburbicon, directed by George Clooney and written in parts by Clooney, Grant Heslov and surprisingly (we’ll get to this) Joel & Ethan Coen (The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men). The story follows the Gardner household, Mr Gardner played by Matt Damon, his wife Rose and her sister Margaret and their son Nicky played by Noah Jupe. In this quaint, all-white town in 1950’s suburbia rattled by the entrance of a black family and a home invasion.
Director: George Clooney. Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Issac 
What going into sounds like the perfect recipe for a terrific dark comedy – quickly turns into boredom. The main reason being the direction and again – surprisingly the writing. I say surprisingly because of the writing credit from the Coen Brothers – the pair behind some of the greatest comedies and movies in recent decades. Sure, we can’t know for certain the extent of their part in the movie but after seeing the film you may agree there are two movies being made here. This is the movie’s biggest problem, the subplot of the black family entering the neighbourhood feels like an afterthought, an attempt to make some insightful comment on racism but essentially boils down to ‘remember that things like this happened’. Meanwhile, it completely disjoints itself and encumbers the main plot, which is by far the most interesting part of this film but is not explored enough to be satisfying. The main plot follows a fitting dark comedy storyline, unfortunately, it lacks laughs but it does more than make up for it in engaging drama.
The best of this being Oscar Issac’s insurance claim investigator, notably having the only performance and moment I laughed at. Issac continues to prove himself an acting powerhouse. However, aside from Issac’s character, the way the characters are acting in the plot lacks any clear motive or emphasis, what I mean by this is that we get very little emphasis or time put into who these characters are and why they are doing the things they are doing. Which at times will have you wondering how this quiet little family in the suburbs in the 50s, suddenly start doing things that seem false and out of character.
I wondered if this was to pull back from the violence and make sure some moments are funny, but that doesn’t work when those moments do not make you laugh and make you feel the characters are not as fleshed out as they could be, and it’s not because of the performances. They are all good, there are no standouts for being particularly good or bad, which seems to be the line this film walks, just being okay. The cinematography and sound are just fine with nothing really standing out as particularly great or particularly bad. The editing, however, fails along with Clooney’s direction/writing as we seem to cut away from key moments in the main plot to go to the misguided subplot, which takes away any impact the main plot could have. This leaves a lot of moments through the film turning in tone, as mentioned some parts of the film feel as if they are trying to make you laugh – but through the direction of the actors and editing – are not. What should be dark comedy comes off as better drama.
Ultimately the film is not terrible, it certainly has its moments of great comedy and drama but because of its disjointed and unwanted afterthought of a subplot, the askew tone and misdirection of scenes – the great parts of this movie are anchored down in a dull and misguided film, that I’m still surprised the Coen Brothers played a part in.