Clooney is not a Coen.
Director: George Clooney (Good Night and Good Luck
Cast: Joel Cohen (Fargo), Ethan Cohen (True Grit), Clooney (The Monuments Men), Grant Heslov (The Ides of March)
Runtime: 1 hr 44 min
by John DeSando
I suppose satire about the pretensions and cruelties of civilized citizens in the burbs could be endless, but that does not mean it is automatic fun. If the Coens can have fun, in, say, Fargo or Raising Arizona, then why not writer-director George Clooney have it with the brothers' original material in Suburbicon.
What he misses is the eccentricity of the Coens that makes its sociological points while entertaining. Suburbicon seems to want that fun but doesn't know how to play with the tone. Gardner (Matt Damon) is a typical mid-level exec caught in a bad loan shark situation with decidedly unsavory characters that are now harassing him and his family. Clooney has a home invasion situation that becomes bloody without wit.
Of course, Clooney, a liberal who hasn't found a cause he couldn't defend, takes the story dark and ultimately obvious by staging a ludicrous town reaction to a black family moving in. He has then a parallel plot even more awkward than the mob's invasion. In both cases a less obvious homily could be had that entertains while instructing about middle-class '50's values warped beyond reason.
Suburbicon has, therefore, a solid provenance with the Coens and Clooney; it just does not have the finesse to be amusing and instructive. That the middle class can be prejudiced and villainous is a given for any age. That the treatment either light or dark must have an expert touch, or two, as in the Coens' case, is essential. Suburbicon lacks the touch.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com