The conspiracy of “Fargo” meets the wholesomeness of “Pleasantville.” Throw in every classic crime-movie cliche.
Directed by George Clooney and based off a Coen Brothers script, the movie is entertaining and replete with energy. However, it is severely lacking in real development. In particular, characters are unrealized and undeveloped.
The setting is the fictitious community of “Suburbicon.” The movie opens up with a little-too-cheerful narrator describing the community. He proclaims it “a melting pot of diversity” with people hailing from states such as New York, Missisippi and Ohio. Dark humor is a strength in the movie and this opening provides a comic juxtaposition to the reality.
Gardner Lodge, played by Matt Damon, lives a suburban life, like his cohorts. However, one night Lodge and his wife Rose, played by Julianne Moore, son, and sister-in-law are burglarized by two men. Lodge attempts to cooperate with the criminals, but to no end. In a movie liberal on clichés, the men must be menacing to the hilt, relishing their power.
“What’s the matter got an appointment?” one of the criminals sneers.
The criminals chloroform the family, yet another classic crime-movie trope. Of course, Rose is a-little-too liberally chloroformed. She ends up dying in the process. Seemingly sweet Aunt Margaret, also played by Julianne Moore, must take over the household. This also entails looking after grieving son Nicky, played Noah Jupe.
“There is nothing to be afraid of now,” Margaret proclaims to Nicky. Not so fast.
After being called to the police station to identify suspects, Lodge and Margaret deliberately fail to identify both of the so-called “robbers.” Nicky, on the other hand recognizes them instantly. Clearly things are foul in the state of Denmark, to quote Shakespeare.
I will not give away much. An insurance scheme is involved. Yet another classic cliché. Gardner and Margaret are also having their own sexual liaisons.
Another count of clichés.
On top of that unraveling story, there is a second plotline. The community is grappling with a black couple, the Myers, moving into their supposedly “diverse” community. Of course, given the ubiquitous cliches, mobs and Confederate flags are involved. The movie relies too much on clichés and less on redefining them, to be frank.
The movie is not devoid of its strong moments. In one hilariously Trumpian move, the town decides to build a wall around the Myers fence. Julianne Moore also gives the movie significant strength. She exudes a perfect mélange of wholesomeness and cold brutality. In one telling scene, she crushes pills into Nicky’s sandwich. In another, she laces an insurance investigator’s coffee with lye.
Should you see this movie? If you like the 1950s, dark humor and clichés.
That said, these moments are not sufficient to give the movie shape. It has a great deal of dark, fast-paced energy, but it needs a coherent story. Why did Gardner Lodge need to have an affair with his sister-in-law? Why did he turn on his own wife? How did he view himself as a man, a father, a breadwinner? The links between the Myers and Lodge stories could be strengthened as well.
“It is falling apart, Maggie,” Lodge says to Margaret in one of the movie’s darkest scenes. That might well describe the movie, except for the fact it needs a foundation in the first place.
Director: George Clooney
Running time: 105 mins
Release Date: Oct 27, 2017
Playing at: Cinemark Movie Bistro and XD, Cinemark Fort Collins 16
Fun fact: Having appeared in four Coen Brothers movies, this is George Clooney’s first time directing one of their scripts
Collegian reporter Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Twitter handle is @dudesosad.