Jean-Paul’s Rating: 2/5 stars
Bottom Line: A slow crawl through the incongruities of suburban life that ramps up quickly at the end and has a somewhat satisfying ending.
“Surburbicon” has a lot going for it. It was written by the Coen brothers, directed by George Clooney, and stars Matt Damon and Julianne Moore. Wait, no, that’s all it has going for it. It all should count for something, but it doesn’t. What you get instead is a ploddingly paced crawl through the banalities of evil set in a suburban environment.
Coen brothers films are like a frame of bowling with manual pin setters. They spend an inordinate amount of time painstakingly setting up the pins and then knock them all down with a bowling ball in a matter of seconds. “Suburbicon” follows this analogy. But whereas most of the enjoyment of their films is the setting up of the pins, here the pins seem to be set up haphazardly and in such a way that it takes a few extra throws of the ball to knock them all down. Don’t you worry, the pins do, indeed come down, and somewhat satisfyingly, but there’s still a messiness to it that leaves a bit of a feeling of being let down.
It’s best to view the film as told exclusively through the eyes of a child. In this case, Nicky (Noah Jupe), the son of Gardener (Matt Damon). It would make the simplistic, almost childlike, dialogue and the incongruous scenes make a lot more sense. Even though Nicky is not in a lot of the scenes, the movie is mostly about how the innocent have to survive the evils that surround them and how they eventually become immune or desensitized to them.
There are a few excellent scenes worth mentioning. The first is the initial interaction of Bud Cooper (Oscar Issac), a suspicious insurance investigator who interviews Margaret (Julianne Moore) about the insurance claim that Gardener has filed. Bud Cooper is the quintessential Coen brothers character, wily, suspicious, gregarious, dangerous, and Oscar Issac serves him up perfectly. The other is the scene where Uncle Mitch (Gary Basaraba) saves Nicky and puts him in the closet. It is a harrowing and tense scene, but also touching. Uncle Mitch can best be described as a well meaning but crass person and his well meaningness comes out in this scene.
The Coen brothers are excellent writers and a miss here and there is to be expected. “Suburbicon” is a solid miss. This isn’t a completely unenjoyable movie, but neither is there much enjoyment. I highly recommend you go watch just about any of their other movies instead of watching this one. Except “The Big Lebowski”, though I recognize that I am about the only person on the face of this earth that didn’t like that movie.