One out of four
“Suburbicon” is a fixer-upper home in a neighborhood you want to avoid.
The film begins with a normal, everyday family, Gardner (Matt Damon), Rose (Julianne Moore) and their son Nicky Lodge (Noah Jupe). When Rose is killed in a home invasion, it shakes up their idealistic way of life. As they come to terms with their loss, Aunt Maggie (also played by Moore) comes to take care of Nicky — and from there life unravels.
“Suburbicon” tries to handle different stylistic tones of humor and murder mystery, while also satirically commenting on race or ’50s nostalgia or capitalism or maybe something else entirely, it’s never really clear. In the end, the audience is left with a mess of a movie that they have to sort out themselves.
The film is written and directed by George Clooney, Joel and Ethan Coen and Grant Heslov. It tries to be a “Coen brothers film” by being a dark comedy similar to “Fargo.” However, in this case it never really gets there, as it’s more focused on the dark and not much on the comedy. Aside from a few mildly humorous moments at Gardner’s office, it revels in the effect of the killing, especially on Nicky.
Perhaps that’s another reason why the film’s humor fails — it’s hard to laugh when a young kid is scared out of his mind. Oddly, one triumph of the film is Jupe perfectly portraying Nicky’s fear and his slow revelations and reactions to what is happening.
As the tonal roof starts to leak, the foundation of the film — the shaky plot — starts to crumble as well. “Suburbicon” seems to have three different directions going at once, as if a architect halfway through building decided to change the blueprints.
Not only is the plot bogged down, it’s boring. Not even decent acting by the cast can repair this disaster.
The only other good aspects are the look and sound. The film uses colorful set pieces from the ’50s to set the style of the neighborhood, the house and offices, all perfectly framed in the camera. Oscar-winning film composer Alexandre Desplat miraculously handles the uneven tones with a score that moves from happy to tender to haunting.
“Suburbicon” is a house that might look good on the outside, but once you walk through the door, you notice holes, uneven floors and an unstable foundation.
Save yourself the trip and avoid “Suburbicon” because it’s not a nice neighborhood, and you’ll probably end up lost.