Suburbicon is set in 1959. The city is bright, shiny and has blocks and blocks of houses and cars that gleam in the sun. Lawns are freshly mowed. Dad goes to work each day. Mom stays home and does the things moms did in suburbia.
Life is idyllic.
Then an African American couple and their son move into the neighborhood. It upsets the lily white freshness of the community. A kind of panic ensues and gradually builds.
Meanwhile, a murder happens the next block over in a perfect Caucasian home. Two thugs show up in the middle of the night. They grab the husband, wife and their young son and the wife’s twin sister, and tie them to chairs and use chloroform to render them unconscious. They use a lot more chloroform on the wife than on the others.
She dies. Then more death follows in often humorous but always ironic, Coen brothers’ movie fashion.
Co-stars Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac and Noah Jupe — who does the couple’s son — have fun with the material. Typical of most Coen brothers projects, most of the characters are two-dimensional people. Damon’s Gardner Lodge is not very deep. He’s a man of little conscience but who is quiet, serious and doesn’t like to make waves. Moore’s Aunt Maggie isn’t the brightest light in the chandelier and is a bit more devious, has a cruel streak and is prone to panic.
Both performances are creepy perfection. So are several other critical roles. Jupe’s Nicky is the film’s only three-dimensional character. He does a kid caught in an adult world he’s not ready for, and in which he is powerless and has nowhere to turn or to run.
It is a deep, difficult role for a young kid.
Joel and Ethan Coen co-write this one with director George Clooney and his Good Night, and Good Luck co-writer Grant Heslov. Who did what writing in the script isn’t certain. However, the product has a lot in common with the satirical and sometimes gritty darkness of early Coen brothers films like Blood Simple, Fargo and The Man Who Wasn’t There.
In places, Clooney and the Coens play it straight; other parts are deliberately outlandish. It’s a nice mix of genres. Clooney — as he was with his directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind — has a wicked sense of humor. He has a blast with the material. The community is appalled about a nice, respectable black couple moving to Suburbicon while very rotten things go on in the Caucasian homes and businesses around them.
While not a horror movie per se, it is — at times — horrifying. On a date close to Halloween when people to flock to the plethora of horror movies dotting theater marquees today, this is the one they ought to be checking out.
Not many tricks here but it is a real treat, and you can’t beat this Clooney, Coen brothers concoction.
Movie name: Suburbicon
Director: George Clooney
Stars: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for violence, language and mature themes. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, the AMC Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.