"Suburbicon"

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Suburbicon is George Clooney's latest attempt at directing and, at some point in the aughts, it seemed like he could really be a great director. His first two fillms ("Confessions of a Dangerous mind," and  "Good Night and Good Luck") seemed to indicate that he could be a natural-born director, but somewhere along the way he lost himself with a series of misfires ("Leatherheads," "The Monuments Men," "The Ides of March"). You can now add "Suburbicon" to that list of fails. It's not like Clooney has lost his knack for presenting us a vivid setup of  tone, story, and time, but the the film's promising start is then followed by a a problematic execution of comedy and drama.

"Suburbicon has Matt Damon playing Gardner Lodge, whose family is tested when a group of men invade his home, they kill his wife, but do leave his son and sister-in-law (Julianne Moore) alive. Doubts start to persist as Gardener falls for his wife's sister and you start to realize that maybe he set the home invasion up himself. The events that soon follow are very Coen-esque, as Gardener needs to cover up and resist not just the authorities questioning him, but also gangsters hounding him for what is owed and an Insurance agent smeeling something fishy in all this. 

Suffice to say, the film quickly spirals out of control into a farce of random occurrences, again the Coens seem to really be a major influence here and I can understand why. Clooney has starred in four of their movies ("O Brother Where Art Thou?" "Burn After Reading," "Intolerable Cruelty," and "Hail, Caesar!") all of which bare striking similarities to "Suburbicon" in terms of  tone, wit and the use of dark comedy. Coincidentally these are all movies that have  had the Coens in more playful moods rather than the dark starkness of their other better efforts. However, Clooney seems to dig that style, which is why "Suburbicon" has been made, based on a script, you guessed it, Joel and Ethan Coen.

The satirical aspect of Suburban life hinted in the fiilm's first half is quickly let go for a more Fargo-esque dilemma in coincidental absurdities. The shifting of tone can sometimes be very intrusive and brings upon a lac of tonal cohesiveness to the story, that I'm sure Clooney didn't mean for it to happen. It doesn't help that most, if not all, of the main characters are unlikeable and despicable. They do horrible things throughout and you are asked to accept their behavior for the betterment of the story. Although the middle section of the film is all over the place, the final third does tend to involve the viewer a little more by adding a redeemable character to the forefront, that would be Gardener's younger boy, and that somewhat reestablishes our emotional involvement in the surroundings. Clooney spikes those final few minutes with a devious mix of mirth and malice that will have you cringing in dread.

If there's a performance that catches the eye though, that would be Oscar Isaac's insurance man, who investigates Gardener's wife's murder and knows something is very rotten in the suburbs. He appears in, I believe, two very important and crucial scenes in the film, delivering a moral compass that has been otherwise lacking in this loony-bin of a film. Isaac, slowly but surely becoming the actor of our generation ("Inside Llewyn Davis," A Most Violent Year," "Drive," "Ex-Machina," "Star Wars") should have been given more screen time, it could have helped in not isolating the audience by sticking them with, what are mostly, murderous losers as lead characters.

Joel and Ethan Coen's screenplay feels like something they were contemplating on making but decided to pass along to Clooney. The addition of  a black family next door to the Gardener's and the flack they receive from the community for wanting to live in in the neighborhood feels forced and, quite frankly, another subplot that could have been left on the cutting room floor.  Matt Damon and Julianne Moore give us the best possible incarnation that these characters could have on-screen, they are both fantastic and rich in their deliveries but the problem never lied with them.  Alexandre Desplat's score is definitely another highlight, I was reminded of "Burn After Reading" and "Hail, Caesar" in the way Desplat mixes cocktail-Jazz and Bernard Hermann to capture the film's darker comedy. [C]
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