Every week, the folks at iTunes find a movie they like and make it available to rent for the low, low price of $0.99. I’m here to tell you whether that film is worth your hard-earned dollar.
This week, Matt Damon and Julianne Moore take a walk on the wild side in the late ’50s-set satire of Suburbicon.
Nothing Like This Ever Happened Here
In the comfy confines of the Suburbicon community, the houses are new, the yards are green, and the residents are all white. Tensions begin to brew when the first African-American residents move in, exposing the bigoted underbelly of the other inhabitants. But there are far more sinister affairs afoot in the idyllic community, and the tragic death of a beloved Suburbicon matron is about to set in motion a chain of events that will shake the neighborhood forever … probably. Welcome to George Clooney’s senseless, pitch-black comedy Suburbicon.
What Do You Think You Know, big man?
If you’re anything like us, you saw names like Damon, Moore, and Clooney, and got all excited to see Suburbicon. Even more so when you read that Oscar Isaac was set to join them and that Joel and Ethan Coen had helped craft the film’s screenplay. If you’re anything like us, you were probably a bit shocked when the film hit theaters and was unceremoniously dismantled by waves of bad reviews. That might even have led you to skip the film’s theatrical run altogether. If that’s the case, count yourself amongst the lucky, because Suburbicon is every bit as bad as you’ve heard, maybe worse.
Look, we’re not going to waste much of your time this week further trashing a movie that’s already been put through the wringer by pretty much everyone who’s had the misfortune to experience it. To be frank, there’s not much about Suburbicon that actually does work. Anyone who sits through 15 minutes of this unmitigated misfire will be able to see that the film’s innumerable problems stem from the fact that the screenplay is an absolute mess. The sort of mess that makes one wonder if it wasn’t actually two different screenplays compressed into one for the sake of, well, we’re not sure what exactly.
The most frustrating part of Suburbicon’s scripting issues is that the two different stories at play in the film — one a chilling, pulpy tale of lies and murder in suburbia, the other a harrowing, racially-charged, based on real life drama in the same setting — would’ve made for intriguing cinema in their own right. While it won’t be hard for folks familiar with Suburbicon’s writing team — featuring The Coen Bros, Grant Heslov, and Clooney himself — to figure out which sides of the stories those writers worked on (The Coens undoubtedly brought the pulp while Heslov/Clooney brought the politics), you’ll certainly be left scratching your head as to how sloppily they smashed those disparate tales together here.
You’ll be scratching your head as to how so many talented people managed to make such a mess of the ideas within the film as well. You might even be a little bit upset that Clooney and Co. waste the glorious cinematography of the great Robert Elswit along the way. And make no mistake, it is shamefully wasted. Just like all the talent, and money, and time it took to make Suburbicon. Not to mention the time you’ll waste if you choose to watch it.
Sadly no. In spite of its intriguing origins and outstanding cast, there’s just not much to like about Suburbicon. It’s dull, predictable, and severely lacking in both jokes and drama. Save that dollar this week, or better yet, put it towards revisiting one of Clooney’s better directorial efforts (i.e. Good Night and Good Luck or Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) or pretty much anything from The Coen Bros. catalogue … except The Ladykillers, which remains a black mark in their otherwise impeccable oeuvre.