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Screen » Film

Suburban Gothic

George Clooney releases a rare misfire



he worst part about watching movies for a living isn't sitting through the bad ones; it's sitting through the crushing disappointments. For example, that Bond movie where Denise Richards played a rocket scientist was probably going to be stupid no matter what happened. When it turned out to be terrible, you shrugged your shoulders and moved on with your day. But it's the bad movies with a genuinely excellent pedigree, packed with obscenely talented people, that really hurt.

"Suburbicon" is one of those movies. There's so much talent in front of and behind the camera that the film should have felt like lightning in a bottle. Instead, it feels more like a fart in a car: eye-wateringly bad and mercifully brief.

In the director's chair is George Clooney, responsible for two of my favorite films of this century: "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and "Good Night, and Good Luck." The script is from the always-brilliant Coen Brothers, who have been trying to make the film for years. In front of the camera are Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac. Combined with a score by Academy Award winner Alexandre Desplat and cinematography by Academy Award winner Robert Elswit, this should have been a modern classic.

Instead, "Suburbicon" is a combination of ideas and styles that leaves the film feeling like a schizophrenic mess without a single moment of tonal consistency. The problem that mortally wounds the film before it ever had a chance is that "Suburbicon" has two separate stories with no sense of cohesion between them.


uburbicon" follows Matt Damon's Gardner Lodge, a husband to a paraplegic Julianne Moore and father to a young, mildly sullen son in 1959 suburbia. They live in an all-white neighborhood named "Suburbicon," recently shaken up by the arrival of the town's first African-American family. So here we have two movies: one a suburban noir in which Lodge makes a series of horrible choices; the other a family story about racism and integration in the '50s.

Either movie would have worked well by itself, but by making Damon the main character, Clooney has already handicapped his picture. Now the black family only exists to teach the white characters a lesson. The suburban noir half doesn't work either because we have no reason to care about the characters; the story is painfully predictable and the dark comedy is neither as edgy nor as funny as it thinks it is.

No one is going to tank their career over it, but this film is an offensive disappointment nonetheless. To tell a story about racism in Small Town, USA, is a noble idea, but then to have the black characters be completely underwritten is a massive miscalculation.

The jokes don't work in the context of the film, the performances are all arc with zero dimension and the script adds no thrills, mystery or fun to the noir side of things. "Suburbicon" is a failure on every single level. I don't even remember the last movie I said that about.


Dir. George Clooney

Grade: F

Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX

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