Suburbicon is both the title of the film and the name of the idyllic and idealised 1950s style suburb in which it is set. Directed by George Clooney and co-written by Clooney, Joel and Ethan Coen and Grant Heslov, the film, like the suburb, is polished and complete. This is a pretty tight and slick production – with very little left unfinished.
It’s quite difficult to give a synopsis to this film without giving too much away – even the trailer is a little misleading in terms of what the film is about and where it goes. It is probably better to go in blind and allow for surprise. That said, a little context is necessary.
Suburbicon features Nicky Lodge (Noah Jupe), a nine year old resident of the suburb who lives with his dad Gardner (Matt Damon), his mum Rose (Julianne Moore) and his aunt Maggie (also Moore). Gardner is a mid-level manager at a local company, his wife Rose is an invalid, injured in a car accident where Gardner was driving. Maggie is Rose’s twin; she helps Gardner where Rose cannot.
When the peaceful town of Suburbicon turns hostile at the arrival of unwelcome new neighbors, Maggie initially encourages Nicky to make friends with the new boy next door. Her friendly attitude hides something more menacing. Life in Suburbicon takes an even more sinister turn when the Lodges home is broken into, and Nicky tries to come to terms with the repercussions of what is happening in his community.
Suburbicon has fabulous colour and styling – it is reflective of 1950s but also hyperbolic in many ways. It’s clear that this is George Clooney’s version of the 1950s rather than the real 1950s. It’s not necessarily an accurate representation of the era, but it feels like an accurate representation of one man’s memory and experience of that time.
Although it is clearly a Clooney production, the film still oozes Coen Brothers. Like much of the Coen Brothers’ previous work, this film is darkly funny. It’s nice to see their screenplay in the hands of another director in Clooney; he clearly understands their particular brand of black comedy.
There are two distinctive plot lines in Suburbicon, that of the Lodges and that of the unwanted neighbors. There is a nice and clear distinction between the A story and the B story; in most films these are very closely woven together. That’s usually a good thing, and probably to be encouraged, but in this instance there is something very likable in the way the two plotlines are more distinctly separate. It might be jarring for some viewers, but it actually highlights just how distant we can be from our own reality and environment. While the larger community are channeling their energy towards a completely innocuous but perceived threat, they are missing the extreme danger right next door. This is such a significant commentary – and supremely relevant to present social and political climates.
Suburbicon is in cinemas from 26th October through Roadshow Films.