Suburbicon - Movie Review by Ben Cahlamer




Directed by George Clooney

Written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney and Grant Heslov

Starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Oscar Isaac, Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell


No matter how much progress is made, race, money and politics are firmly in the minds of Americans. These are not necessarily negative subjects to talk about. As a matter of fact, if history has taught us anything, it’s that we are less close minded about these subjects, even if we still don’t like to talk about them. In fact, director George Clooney takes several risks to bring these subjects front and center in his latest film, the dark comedy Suburbicon.

Set in the late 1950’s, the small, unassuming and peaceful community of Suburbicon is just the haven families sought to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Suburbicon had all the amenities that a growing family needed to continue growing; plenty of land, lots of space and plenty of opportunities to socialize. Suburbicon hides its problems well. 

Perhaps a little too well.

As the film begins, the peaceful suburban respite of Suburbicon is disrupted when the Mayers move in, affecting the community as a whole. Behind the Mayers live the Lodges. Gardner Lodge is an extremely successful executive.  He has a wife, Rose and a son, Nicky. They seem to have everything they could want. A late night break-in results in Rose’s death and shakes the family to the core.  Rose’s sister, Margaret moves in to help take care of Nicky. Even with the citizens of Suburbicon up in arms over the Mayers, something more sinister involving the mob seeps in just below the surface.

Matt Damon plays the simple, yet multi-faceted Gardner Lodge; “simple” because the plans he hatches are so very simple and easy to trace. He’s multi-faceted because he has the foresight to counteract the hurdles he creates for himself, except one. Julianne Moore has had an absolutely stellar year and this is no exception. Noah Jupe plays Nicky; he is the quiet-type and is extremely respectful of his elders, a sign of the times the film is set in. Oscar Isaac shows up and steals the show while Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell are the strong arms.

In deference to Mr. Clooney, he went all out to make sure that we felt right at home, right down to the looks of the homes and the cars along with the situations the characters were placed in. Each of the cast members got the nuances of the characters right too. The film is so full of amazing detail along with Alexandre Desplat’s luscious score, that I felt like I was looking at a moving postcard, it’s that uncanny.

Sticking to the details, Mr. Clooney also assumed multiple risks in tackling such an involved film.

As swell as this film looks and sounds, the risks don’t pay off. Much like the sprawling suburb of Suburbicon, the script written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Mr. Clooney and Grant Heslov hides its problems a little too well. The Coen’s originally wrote the script in the late 1980’s shortly after filming their acclaimed Blood Simple. Mr. Clooney and Mr. Heslov rewrote the script. The result is a series of outlandish and whacky vignettes which work because of the Coen – esque characters, but the overlapping narratives overlap the characters. The story objectifies the situations, rather than romanticizes them.

Which is a shame, because I am a huge sucker for all of the talents involved.

2.5 out of 4 stars