I would love to start this review in the same way many of my reviews start, with a nice introduction just to get you all cosy and settled in for the point about to be discussed. Well this isn’t that kind of review because I have witnessed giants become small and I’m not a happy bunny about it.
What has happened to the Coen Brothers? Looking back, these two could get film maniacs overloaded on excitement, what cinematic joy will we see this time they would ask. But now whenever they’re names are attached to a project, it doesn’t excite me as much as it used too. But with their writing work on Suburbicon, it was just too hard to believe that these brothers worked on some of the best-known films in history. Nevertheless, I don’t pinpoint the problems of Suburbicon entirely on the brothers so a further dive into this film is required.
Our first point of call is looking at the potential this film had and where else can you start without mentioning the very unique setting of Suburbicon. I thoroughly enjoyed the visual appeal of a 1950’s American suburb which has proven to be a very successful style in other forms of entertainment (Fallout series). The opening animation is very fitting with wanting us the audience to place ourselves in this film world and through its joyousness, easily transports us to this suburb and makes us intrigue to find out more about this idealistic “American Dream” style presentation.
Matt Damon and Julianne Moore star as Gardner and Rose/Margaret who give us performance that are somewhat a salvation from this film. These two work very well together but at times it did feel as those the performances were making the best of a bad situation. Nevertheless, there is no need to discredit them because they were touching the right notes when the film demanded them to.
This location appeal is made even more pleasing by admittedly, impressive cinematography that make the audience settled when they’re meant to be settled and thrilled when the story starts to turn up the thriller side of this story, dare I say it the premise of the mystery in this film is a near replicate of a Hitchcockian thriller, that is on paper.
I am a believer in the potential of George Clooney shifting from actor to director, despite a short track record that hasn’t been impressive as it should be. The notoriety of the Coen Brothers has certainly help sell this film, but audiences will have no idea what the story is as the film spend too much time deciding what it wants to be. There are two narratives in the film, the mystery and the story of a black family moving into an all-white community. It will become apparent that the black family moving into Suburbicon is much more interesting that the mystery, but the film makes the decision of sidelining this narrative only to have it pop in every now and then. This to me is a decision that majorly affects the enjoyment of the film, and worse still, they put time into this story by having the main child actor Nicky (Noah Jupe) and the black kid Andy Mayers (Tony Espinosa) develop a friendship equally as interesting as the narrative itself.
The town itself is a bigger mystery, I spent some time thinking to myself whether they we’re trying to make Suburbicon a character itself, again a very interesting direction and a choice that has proven to be the highlight of many other films. Yet in this film they’re going about it all the wrong way. the town looks visually impressive and the opening animation paints a picture but that’s all it manages to do, where is the complexity of the town? Looking at fictional towns or cities in films like Gotham or Emerald City, these places are so iconic that they develop a clear layout for the audience, like a blueprint where the audience can know exactly where they are in this fictional world, in Suburbicon, we have no idea where places are making the film’s world feel like a maze.
This film is trying to be a racial commentary, social commentary, a mob story, a thriller and a Hitchcockian mystery at the same time. Sure, films in the past have tried to be multiple things, but the successful ones are those whose tone is consistent, every avenue this film tries to explore feels like a completely different film which spoils our enjoyment. In the end Suburbicon lacks an identity and the narrative is so unevenly paced that it feels as though the writers were trying to come up with what Suburbicon was supposed to be as the script was being finalised. It just hits home for me to see the legendary Coen brothers, fabled directors as well as writers produce something so uninspired. I’m still saddened even now and will probably feel the effects for some time.
Final Result: 2/10 – Very Poor
Have you seen Suburbicon? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Wonder