Combustible Celluloid
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With: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Noah Jupe, Glenn Fleshler, Megan Ferguson, Jack Conley, Gary Basaraba, Michael D. Cohen, Tony Espinosa, Alex Hassell
Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Directed by: George Clooney
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sexuality
Running Time: 104
Date: 10/27/2017

Suburbicon (2017)

1 Star (out of 4)

Annoys in the 'Hood

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Resurrecting an old, abandoned Coen brothers script, this would-be black comedy is a total, depressing misfire, a baffling, awkward combination of nasty thrills and grim, ham-fisted social commentary.

In Suburbicon, it's the 1950s and Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) lives with his family in an all-white suburban neighborhood. A kindly African-American family, the Meyerses moves in nearby, and Gardner's son Nicky (Noah Jupe) befriends their boy, Andy (Tony Espinosa). Meanwhile, two men (Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell) break into Gardner's house, and use chloroform to subdue his wife, the wheelchair-bound Rose (Julianne Moore), her twin sister Margaret (Moore), and Nicky.

Clues quickly indicate that Gardner and Margaret have hired the thugs to knock off Rose, and when an insurance claims inspector (Oscar Isaac) arrives, things escalate. Meawhile, the white neighbors have begun to terrorize the Meyers family, making noise, throwing things, and, finally, vandalizing their home. Can order be restored to Suburbicon?

The only redeeming value in Suburbicon, which was directed by George Clooney, is its depiction of racism as vulgar and ugly; it's far more blunt than nuanced movies like Marshall or Selma. On the other hand, the fact that the African-American characters are the only good people in the movie (aside from the white boy, Nicky), is far too obvious, and not very useful.

As for the murder storyline, it's very simply distasteful, focusing on sociopathic characters with no moral center. The grownups' lack of love and protection for the young boy is shocking, and almost sickening. There's simply no way to care about these characters or their outcome. The two story threads tentatively meet up, awkwardly, at the end, but with no payoff.

Clooney has directed duds before (Leatherheads, The Monuments Men), but nothing this head-scratchingly bad. Perhaps that Coen brothers screenplay — which was re-written by Clooney and Grant Heslov — should have stayed abandoned.

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