- MPAA Rating:
- 104 mins
- Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Noah Jupe
- George Clooney
- George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Teddy Schwarzmann
Content at a Glance
Lead characters that exhibit disrespect for authority, lying, cheating, stealing, illegal activity, witchcraft or sorcery×
graphic sexual activity is seen and heard when the boy intrudes on his father and aunt engaging in kinky sex
multiple uses of profane language, including f-bombs, sexual slang, and biblical profanity
extreme graphic violence; a man and woman are poisoned; man dies in an explosion; people stabbed, shot, and bludgeoned
drugs chopped up and used as a poison
A home invasion rattles a quiet family town.
George Clooney had his hands all over this movie as one of the writers, as its producer and director, and he missed the mark with Suburbicon, which is unintentionally ironic. In this re-working of an old Cohen brothers’ script, he tells the story of a small Caucasian family named the Lodges—Gardner (Matt Damon), Rose/Margaret (both roles played by Julianne Moore), and Nick (Noah Jupe), who is firmly situated in a post-war 1950s American-dream neighborhood by the same name as the film. As somewhat of a backdrop, Clooney bases the conflict in this film on a true story that occurred in Levittown, Pennsylvania, at that time (the second “planned community” created by the father of the modern American suburb, Levitt himself, who refused to sell homes to African Americans) by giving us the plot of a young black family, the Mayers (this last name is spelled slightly differently from the actual family’s) as the Lodges’ neighbors. They endure ridicule and shame at the hands of their all-white community that has become an angry mob throughout the film, determined to rid these “invaders” from the neighborhood. Considering how famous the actual Myers’ family became (Daisy Myers was called the “Rosa Parks of the North” and wrote a book about her family’s experiences), they disappointingly take a back seat to the Lodge family’s shallow escapades.
The seeming idea for including the Mayers’ narrative would be to highlight that they innocently suffer the consequences of the hatred that is bred in others’ hearts and minds, while the Lodges deal with the consequences of the sinister breeding of their own, as one bad choice leads to another. However, the constant cutting away to the chanting threat outside the Mayers’ home in an effort to connect these two coinciding scenarios falls short. It is glaringly obvious that the Lodge’s story is given precedence through their voice and the majority of the screen time, but it is not necessarily as interesting. Knowing Clooney’s penchant for making political and racial statements in film, and given his incessant attempt to showcase the friendship between the Mayers’ son and the Lodge’s, the irony lies in the story revolving primarily around the white family.
Clooney claims he keeps the Mayers family’s personal experience on the fringe in an effort to contrast the outward evil with the underbelly, a familiar 1950s suburban trope, perhaps also highlighting that no one in the community even notices the Lodge’s outrageous behavior due to the fixation on harassing the Mayers, but his point is shrouded by the actual silence imposed on the real victims, giving them few spoken lines and no backstory, thus literally marginalizing them. I was left feeling cheated that the Mayers’ story was not better articulated; I wanted to care about them more, not sympathize with the Lodges. It felt as though the latter was being crammed down my throat. It is not surprising then that this film has that jaunty, quirky Cohen brothers’ feel, but the dark comedic elements seem misplaced. It’s as though the movie does not know what it wants to be, so it jumps around seeking an identity.
However, big props go to production designer James D. Bissell for perfectly capturing the picturesque, squeaky-clean, yet stylish quality of this era, which successfully adds to the narrative that questions exterior versus interior realities. Likewise, Noah Jupe genuinely conveys his own victimization at the hands of blindingly selfish adults, where, in the friendship between the two boys, Clooney highlights that innocence is what we have lost and where love and forgiveness lie; we may not be able to go back to it, but as the boys resume their backyard play after so much evil has ensued, perhaps we can capture its spirit and let that guide us.