We’ve all experienced watching a trailer and getting an idea of what the movie is going to be about. Then, we go to the movie theater and see something entirely different. Suburbicon definitely falls into that category as there are numerous twists and a parallel plotline not present in the trailer that take the movie on a very different path. Now, the fact that a trailer didn’t give away all of the secrets is a positive but in the case of Suburbicon, the extra plot and character development end up dragging the movie down in a negative way.
From the onset of the film, we’re led to believe that the city of Suburbicon is full of Beaver Cleaver family clones. However, the picture perfect homeland is quickly turned upside down when the Mayers, an African American family, move into the neighborhood. This sets the side plotline in motion as we witness over the course of the film as the town gets worked up into a racial frenzy over their existence. As the intensity towards the Mayers reaches new levels, so does the violence in our main storyline. That role belongs to Gardner (Matt Damon) and his family on the other side of the Mayer’s back fence.
Gardner, his wife, son and sister-in-law are victims of a home invasion that, ultimately, leaves his wife murdered. When his sister-in-law offers to stay and help with his son, it seems innocent enough. But there is a lot more to the story that slowly unravels in the form of a mystery that might have made a good noir. However, director George Clooney takes the Coen Brothers script down a much darker path with comedic undertones. That path can actually be very slow-paced at times before throwing something very jarring at you that turns the movie down another street.There are some very violent moments in this film but not nearly as many as the trailer would have you believe. And there is also a significant amount of dark humor present that was barely hinted at in the trailer. Damon offers us a very sympathetic 50s suburban man-of-the-house character to start off with but by the end of the film, he’s actually difficult to watch as he becomes a very unlikeable character. Julianne Moore plays both twin sisters Rose and Margaret, another plot point not present in the trailers and initially puzzling to witness.
However, I believe Oscar Isaac (Stars Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina) stole the show as insurance investigator Bud Cooper. His scenes were genuinely entertaining to watch and I wish we could have seen more of him. Young Nicky (Noah Jupe) was also amazing and I look forward to seeing more of him in the future. The sadness and fear he projects on screen is perhaps the most genuine of emotions we witness in Suburbicon.
The jarring character twists and harsh nature of the race relations issues with the Mayers family were sometimes too orchestrated as to be effective. There were too many tonal shifts to keep up with and I felt that sidetracked the film from staying on one course. Besides the few characters I enjoyed, the most appealing part to me was the visual representation of 1959. I love seeing the cars and home and little tiki decorations scattered throughout the film. It is probably the most successful part of Suburbicon aside from the charming friendship between Nicky and Andy Mayers. Their final scene is a symbol of hope in an otherwise bleak film. Suburbicon only works some of the time and suffers perhaps the worst fate of any film. It is largely forgettable and not something that you will want to visit again and again.