"left me too much at a loss to really know what could have turned it into the Clooney and Coen flicks I’ve enjoyed so much"
Maybe my expectations were too high: I adored George Clooney’s Goodnight, and Good Luck, am generally a fan of the Coen Brothers, and have equally loved Julianne Moore and Matt Damon in many films past. Furthermore, Dark Comedy and 1950's American suburbia are among my favourites film ingredients. My expectations were so high, they were bound to be let down. Just not to that extent.
The main reason was the plot, or should I say, plots: Suburbicon is both the story of a perfect murder gone wrong in the white middle class Lodge family, and of a herd of equally white middle class racist men and women who ostracise and later terrorise the newly arrived and equally middle class African American Mayers family.
The two plot lines are only tied by the friendship between Nick Lodge (Noah Jupe) and Andy Mayers (Tony Espinosa) which unfortunately doesn’t have much of a dramatic effect on the adults, and later, quite close to the end, when a mob set against the Mayers allows Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) a diversion to get rid of a dead body. I’m still not sure why those two plot lines are there to co-exist without fully interacting.
Is it a social commentary on 1950's (and post 2016) American racism that might be a bit too clever for its own good? An attempt at narrative experimentation that was lost on little “I only deal with experimental structures when it’s indie cinema” me? Whatever the reason, I struggled to fully engage, and for once wasn’t helped either by Alexandre Desplat’s music, competently created as usual, though not quite in synch with the genre and era at hand.
With all this combined, I spent most of the film not quite know where I was, though I oddly knew what twists to expect given the quite stereotypical leads (Gardner murders his wife because he’s sleeping with his sister in law, they want to collect insurance money and escape to an island in the Caribbean..)
That being said, the film looked great, and Oscar Isaac’s arrival as a delightfully theatrical insurance investigator was a much needed breath of fresh air and possibly the most pleasurably memorable scene, thanks to Isaac’s utter brilliance.
Another saving grace being Noah Jupe’s Nick, whose lovely blend of tough and vulnerable can keep the audience rooting and caring for him until the end. Equal kudos to Tony Espinosa though the latter might have been completely underused. Was the solution two films presented as one show, allowing more balance between the plot lines and characters? Possibly, though Suburbicon left me too much at a loss to really know what could have turned it into the Clooney and Coen flicks I’ve enjoyed so much.