George Clooney and Joel and Ethan Coen have teamed up to make some fine films. “Suburbicon” is not one of them.
Directed by Clooney and written by Clooney, the Coen brothers and Grant Heslov, “Suburbicon” starts off as some kind of social satire then veers into a bleak crime drama. The two elements never intersect in any meaningful way and the result is a disappointing mess — especially given the talent involved.
The story centers around Nicky Lodge (Noah Jupe), a quiet boy growing up in the all-white enclave of Suburbicon in the 1950s. A black family has moved in next door, much to the horror of the other residents. This is played for laughs in the beginning, but soon takes a dark turn.
Nicky lives with his father Gardner (Matt Damon), mother Rose, and Rose’s identical twin sister Margaret (both played by Julianne Moore). One night a pair of burglars show up and in the commission of their crime, Rose is killed.
I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot, which unfolds at a snail’s pace.
Nicky befriends the boy next door (Tony Espinosa) and that’s the flimsy way in which these two story lines connect.
“Suburbicon” is pretty much “Fargo” but without the Francis McDormand character who gave that quirky murder tale its heart and brought some light to an otherwise morbid story. I suppose Nicky is supposed to fill that role, but he isn’t nearly as compelling.
A shout-out should be given to Oscar Issac who gives a brief but memorable performance as an insurance investigator. He’s one of the few highlights in this misfire. The film looks good and has a definite 1950s America feel about it.
One expects the unusual and fresh from the Coen brothers, but there’s nothing original about stating that there’s a dark side to suburbia, and “Suburbicon” doesn’t bring anything new to the table.