George Clooney's latest film suffers from a crisis of identity, never quite sure what it wants to be. It’s a classic slice of Cherry Pie noir, kitsch 50s Americana skewered for dark laughs. The only problem is, it’s not that funny.
Suburbicon is a pretty typical tale of infidelity, murder and botched cover ups, a threadbare narrative that struggles to fill the 104-minute film. Director Clooney attempts to include a secondary plot involving an African American family moving into the neighbourhood and struggling with racist neighbours.
It’s problematic for multiple reasons, firstly a family we are meant to empathise with is given little screen time and fewer lines, what could be construed as a metaphor for a lack of voice in society comes across more as lazy storytelling. Secondly, their narrative thread barely crosses with the main plot line involving Julianne Moore and Matt Damon. For the entirety of the film we are presented with two parallel narratives that have little to do with each other leaving the audience to wonder what the point is?
Moore and Damon are fine, although their characters are lacking in motivation. We have no understanding as to what drives these characters, the story in parts appearing ludicrous as we have little context for the reasons behind Damon and Moore’s actions. For a film that feels much longer than its 104 minutes, with great stretches of time in which little seems to happen it is a wonder why more time wasn’t spent on character development.
However, Suburbicon isn’t entirely void of charm, the sets and costuming are immaculate. Moore is brilliantly sinister at times and young Noah Jupe portraying Damon’s son is excellent. He manages to be serious and sullen without coming across too angsty or unlikeable.
Suburbicon is an entertaining enough slice of the sinister side of suburbia but you’d be better off picking up a copy of Blue Velvet or Pleasantville.