Suburbicon is the sixth feature length film from director George Clooney. This is a hard film to describe, not because the story is complicated but because discussing the plot will ruin a lot of the fun. The less you know about Suburbicon prior to seeing it, the better. Let’s just say that the story takes place during the late 1950s and focuses on the Lodge family and their secrets.
Suburbicon is Clooney’s most entertaining and best film to date. The film is a satire and a razor-sharp one at that. The screenplay which was written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney, and Grant Heslov takes aim at white suburban neighborhoods and how these seemingly wholesome communities are filled with residents who aren’t what they seem. The film opens with a commercial for Suburbicon which presents this perfect family community and how great it is to be a resident there. It seems like everyone is happy and nothing bad ever happens in Suburbicon until the Meyers move in.
The Meyers played by Karimah Westbrook and Leith M. Burke move into the neighborhood along with their son Andy (Tony Espinosa) at the very beginning of the film. They are the first black residents of Suburbicon and are immediately looked upon as a threat because of their skin color. The mere fact that a black couple has moved into the neighborhood causes an immediate concern for the all white community. The residents proceed to voice their concern about the Meyers to the housing board. When that doesn’t work, they stand outside the Meyers’ home throwing rocks, holding up signs, and breaking their windows. This is all a pretty authentic take on how America used to be and in some cases still is.
The majority of Suburbicon focuses on the Lodge family and all the shady things that they do behind closed doors. Gardner (Matt Damon) is introduced as a father who is just a good guy working hard to support his family. As time goes on, we learn more about his plans and what is really going on between him and his wife’s sister Margaret played by Julianne Moore. The film dissects what really goes on behind the scenes in these “Picture perfect homes” from having the fetish of being spanked to insurance fraud.
Clooney paints a comedic portrait of white suburban life and how so many illegal things go unnoticed. No one ever pays attention to what goes on because no one wants the image of their perfect lifestyle to be tarnished. It is odd that a high profile celebrity like Clooney freely acknowledges the fact even in a comedic way that white people get away with a lot more illegal activities than those of color. He pokes fun at white communities and how as soon as a person of color moves in, everyone around the neighborhood fears for the worst.
After being so disappointed with Damon’s character in Downsizing, I was happy to see him playing a character that showcased his range as an actor. Damon plays Gardner, a loving husband, and father but he also has a dark side. Near the end of the film, Gardner is talking to his son Nicky (Noah Jupe) at the dinner table. He delivers this great speech that is both comedic and dramatic while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Julianne Moore is great here as well. Moore has a dual role and plays Rosie (Gardner’s bitter wife) and Margaret (Gardner’s sister in law). While the character of Rosie doesn’t have a big part in the film, it was interesting seeing Moore playing two roles because they were each very different. Moore and Damon have great on-screen chemistry and look like they are having a blast playing up the whole innocent angle of their characters.
Oscar Isaac has a small role as an insurance investigator but is an absolute riot. This is probably the funniest that I have seen Isaac so far in his career. His character knows how to play the game and isn’t afraid to do so. Gardner’s son Nicky played by Noah Jupe is good and seems to be very concerned by all that is going on around him. He gives off a genuine sense of curiosity while still maintaining the innocence of being a kid.
Suburbicon is a dark and comedic jab at suburban life and the secrets of those who live there. I loved the social commentary as well as the dark humor. Damon and Moore have fun with the material and deliver layered performances. This may not be a film for everyone but for those who are fans of dark comedies, Suburbicon is a must-see. It is unlike anything that Clooney has ever done before and showcases his talent as a filmmaker. I can’t wait to revisit this film again closer to its release.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Suburbicon is an 8 out of 10.