Clooney. Damon. Moore. The Coen Brothers. Sounds like a slam-dunk, no? Well, not quite. George Clooney’s Suburbicon is entertaining, to be sure, but ultimately it can’t quite seem to decide what it’s trying to say. Set in a 1950s perfectly planned suburb, Matt Damon plays Gardner Lodge, father of adorable preteen Nicky (Noah Jupe, The Night Manager) and husband to invalid wife Rose (Julianne Moore, Still Alice) whose twin sister Margaret is a regular guest in the house. The peace of their idyllic neighborhood is broken suddenly by two unconnected incidents: A violent home invasion at the Lodge’s house and the arrival of the subdivision’s first black family who move in right next door. You would expect that these two things might somehow intersect eventually. You’d be mistaken.
The thugs that invade the Lodge home tie up and chloroform the whole family killing Rose. And then ditzy Aunt Margaret moves in, and young Nicky slowly realizes that Dad is not the stand-up citizen that he seemed. Then insurance investigator Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac) starts nosing around, asking about some claims that seem entirely too coincidental. And the thugs haven’t finished with the Lodges either. Meanwhile next door, the Mayers family is enduring a racist mob whose tactics escalate into a night of Confederate flag waving, bomb-throwing violence, which is good for the Lodges, since with all eyes on the White Supremacists, the mayhem next door can continue.
Nicky and the Mayers’ son Andy (Tony Espinosa) become two innocent witnesses to the ugliness of the adult world while bonding over baseball and garter snakes, but except for the two becoming buddies, the two stories don’t really connect and that’s the big problem of the film. It feels like George wanted to inject some social justice into an otherwise dark crime comedy. Like all that rage being vented on the nice black family is misdirected when there’s this sinister guy right next door. But sadly the film comes off as neither funny nor righteous. The actors are all fine and it is well shot, but the Coen Brothers’ input did not elevate a misguided script. Wait for it on Netflix or a plane.