Sometimes you just need a little bit more than a good idea…
With on screen pedigree spilling out at every corner, Suburbicon should have been a virtual slam dunk of a movie and while it’s not without some genuine promise and interesting angles it ends up just being a little too underdeveloped and it shows the storytelling flaws of the people driving the narrative to its end conclusion.
Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns…the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. However, underneath this serene and tranquil surface that is the embodiment of the American Dream masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) navigates the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence for his own gain. This is a tale of humanity on raw display as very flawed people make some very bad choices and ultimately have to suffer the consequences for them.
There’s some genuine meat to chew on in Suburbicon as a grizzly drama and some over the top social satire collide but it comes off as very uneven and shows how it just needed a little more development before Clooney as a storyteller tried to venture into territory that he has now shown he is quite ready for as a director.
It undoubtedly has a very polished and slick look to it that is assembled well and drops us into what could very much be described as anything from a dark allegory to our modern political times to a gonzo yet somewhat gory statement to the perils of manufactured living that was prevalent in the 50’s and still is to this day. It’s a film with a lot to say, the problem is that it just doesn’t always say it as well as it would like to. Clooney has certainly worked with the Coen Brothers (who co-wrote the script) in the past with some great results and he gives us a bold effort here. However without a well defined leading character and a narrative that plays on style as a function of its substance which muddies the waters of it all just a little bit and he ultimately falters. He just doesn’t have the necessary chops to lead a story into some more quirky and abstract ideas like he’s seen the Coen’s do in the past. It all makes for an interesting attempt, but lacks the cohesiveness that it needs to truly sink in with two divergent ideas colliding in the same narrative. It’s the kind of film that either needed to be 15 minutes shorter, or 30 minutes longer because right now it is in a tonal limbo where it’s a little funny but also a lot darker then you’d initially expect and this could have been fixed with a tighter script and some more character development.
Granted, Matt Damon is his usual stalwart self at the centre of this sorted affair in the idyllic land of Suburbicon but we don’t get much except for the fact that this man is struggling with his bent nature inside the confines of this small town America. Julianne Moore in two roles really doesn’t do much of anything while the likes of Oscar Isaac gets a fun yet all too brief moment to shine, otherwise there isn’t all that much character work going on here as these characters seemingly are motivated more by the results of what is around them then by anything a little more deeper and meaningful.
At the end of the day, Suburbicon is an interesting piece given some of the ideas that it brings together, but even when they do link together it feels a little forced and awkward as the entire thing just tries to do a little bit more then it is actually capable of.