"Two Stories at Once"
A Review of "Suburbicon" by Nathan H. Box
Directors: George Clooney, Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac
Rating: 2 Stars, SKIP
A home invasion rattles a quiet family town.
"Suburbicon" is the most oddly toned movie of 2017. On one hand, it is attempting to tell a powerful civil rights story about an African American family moving to the suburbs. On the other hand, it tries to tell the story of a family rocked by a home invasion gone awry and the community left questioning their sense of safety, togetherness, and place. Where the movie fails is in its attempt to tell two stories at once. At no point in the movie, do they make a solid connection between the stories beyond pointing out the African American family neighbors those who are the victims of the home invasion. You as an audience member will spend most of the film trying to reconcile these two plats which end up being nothing more than a distraction.
Of the two stories, the more compelling one focuses on the African American family. In many ways, their story is the one that will resonate with audiences. Chasing the American dream, they move to the suburbs to chase good schools, higher paying jobs, and a sense of community. Instead, they meet ever-increasing intimidation, bullying, and violence. As the movie plows forward, you begin to fear for their safety. As the film draws toward its a conclusion, some of your greatest fears are realized. As a white man, I left the theater disappointed in people who share my skin color and a sincere hope we've recovered from this ignorance. Of course, all I have to do is turn on my television to realize we have much work to do.
The second story focuses on a forbidden love between a father (Matt Damon) and his sister-in-law (Julianne Moore). In their grand scheme to finally be together, they have managed to engineer at least one failed attempt to kill Matt Damon's current wife. A home invasion gone wrong is their latest attempt and it is the one that finally does the trick. As they wait to collect a life insurance policy, their plan begins to fall apart. If you have seen any movie ever, you know the best-laid plans of those who do evil always fall apart. The only question to be answered is the degree to which they fall. For this film, things begin to falter thanks to a pretty smart kid. Noah Jupe plays Nicky, the son of Matt Damon's character. In my opinion, he absolutely steals the show. In many ways, he is the only redeeming person we get to meet.
In the end, "Suburbicon" is a strange movie that fails to connect on a number of layers. Given the cast, writers, and director, I had high hopes for this film. Like those who choose suburban life over the city, I was left disappointed and a bit mystified. For these reasons, I suggest you skip this film.
Be good to each other,