The one thing that doesn’t get as noticed as it should be is one really interesting thing: what happens when someone directs a screenplay by the Coen Brothers. Unbroken was a critical darling directed by Angelina Jolie originally set as a Coen Brothers film. Bridge of Spies followed the same path, as have a number of other films.
Suburbicon, which seemed poised to follow this trend, was originally written to be directed by the Coen Brothers and wound up in the hands of George Clooney instead. A screenplay left on the shelf for 30 plus years, the film has substantial issues even in the capable hands of Clooney.
Simple premise: The wife (Julianne Moore) of a corporate office drone (Matt Damon) winds up dead at the hands of gangsters and there’s far more brewing underneath the surface than he’s letting on. Between gangsters and an insurance adjuster (Oscar Isaac) looking to save some money by not paying on her policy, there’s a lot going on in that household. Unfortunately, no one is paying attention in the quaint, 1960s suburb because a black family moved in next door.
One can see where Clooney is going with this; there’s something really interesting to be mined from this film in trying to weave a secondary storyline about the nature of race relations a half century ago with a dark comedy. Clooney, who has a number of writing credits besides a fairly solid directing career, just doesn’t seem to be the right director for the material.
This is a Coen Brothers film in feel and look but it takes a certain type of director to mine comedy and dramatic gold from this level of straw. Clooney has historically never been that kind of actor or director so it’s an odd choice to see him behind the camera for this one.
It leaves the film in a weird limbo. It’s a dark comedy that isn’t quite as dark or funny as it needs to be, leaving it a short but unfulfilling film.
A handful of features that don’t provide much depth to the film are included.
Paramount presents Suburbicon. Directed by George Clooney. Written by Joel & Ethan Coen and George Clooney & Grant Heslov. Starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Noah Jupe, Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell, Karimah Westbrook. Run Time: 105 minutes. Rated R. Released on: 2.6.18
Tags: Alex Hassell, George Clooney, Glenn Fleshler, Julianne Moore, Karimah Westbrook, Matt Damon, Noah Jupe, Oscar Isaac, suburbicon