© Concorde Filmverleih GmbH

U.S./U.K. 2017

Opening 9 Nov 2017

Directed by: George Clooney
Writing credits: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Principal actors: Julianne Moore, Matt Damon, Noah Jupe, Tony Espinosa

When the troops came home after World War Two an experiment began to provide them and their families with homes in new suburbs. The movie Surburbicon is set in one such community in the 1950s, when life was good and everybody was happy. Something always comes along to burst the bubble doesn’t it? In this movie not one but two bubbles are well and truly burst. 

Rose Lodge and her sister Maggie (both played by Julianne Moore) are sitting in the back yard of the Lodge home. Maggie tells Rose’s son Nicky (Jupe) to introduce himself to the new kid on the block. Nicky is reluctant to do so but children in the fifties always did as they were told so he picks up his baseball glove and ambles across the yard to meet Andy (Espinosa.) A slow and steady friendship begins to develop between the boys.

Not long after, while the Lodge family and Maggie are quietly eating dinner and minding their own business a shocking event occurs. This event provides the basis for the movie’s main theme. The equally shocking events which happen to Andy Meyer’s family provide the secondary theme and these events build up to a disturbing finale. Unfortunately, though these seem clumsy and exaggerated in the movie, recent events in the USA show that they are closer to the truth than we would wish.

The Coen brothers’ particular brand of black humour is instantly recognisable in this quirky tale of the Lodge family’s self-imposed downward spiral and eventual comeuppance. Their behaviour causes their downfall but quite the opposite happens to the passive Meyers who try to get on with life despite all the hurdles put in their way. Can people really be so awful? Yes, unfortunately they can.

Mr. Clooney’s wicked sense of humour and love of the absurd is complimented by his fellow scriptwriters. His movie is always gripping despite the clumsiness of trying to merge the two plots. He uses the two likeable little boys to bring these themes together but with only limited success. Nicky and Andy are the voice of reason and the face of morality. Nicky’s solemn little personage clothed in cowboy and Indians pajamas (which match his wallpaper) is unforgettable, as is Andy’s resigned stoicism. Julianne Moore plays the perfect fifties suburban housewife and Matt Damon’s performance as hypocrite Gardner Lodge is delightfully chilling.

Suburbicon is an elegant, well-paced movie which, despite its flaws is certainly worth seeing. (Jenny Mather)

Second Opinion

The budding town of Suburbicon — 66,000 and growing — epitomizes the 1950s American dream. That dream is turned inside out and mocked in this negligible black comedy. At the heart of the plot is true innocence: through baseball, new kid on the block (Tony Espinosa) makes contact with the established neighbor (Jupe). Commencing the day the Meyers (Karimah Westbrook, Leith M. Burke) move-in, the action increases to the thickness of chunky peanut butter and jam on spongy white bread.

The Lodges’ (Damon, Moore) are coping with personal setbacks — injury, deception, robbery (Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell), plotting, thereby overlook the color of the new neighbors. But other good citizens do… with askance. As intrigues and harassments intensify, plans go awry – enter an insurance adjuster (Isaac owns his onscreen scenes). Nicky reaches out to Uncle Mitch (Gary Basaraba), mayhem prevails as suburbanites explode, and in the aftermath amidst the community’s justifications, it is just another day for a good game of catch.

Suburbicon, homage to 1950s Americana, is worth seeing for its tone and tempo, production design, art direction and storybook opening sequence. From Damon and Moore to the mailman (Steve Monroe) the cast personifies their characters virtuous hypocrisy through droll posturing and measured facial expressions and vocal cadence. The script however, is lax and easy to second-guess, and not helped by George Clooney’s at times confusing or clumsy directing, as well as squandering actors attributes. Editor Stephen Mirrione occasionally falters, but Robert Elswit’s cinematography is spot-on, and Alexandre Desplat’s music is terrific. Falling short of its potential, Suburbicon might satisfy die-hard Coen fans, but it is not a cinematic must-see (Marinell Haegelin)

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