I was chatting with friends about SUBURBICON the other night and when asked about this movie, I said, “it’s an example of White People wanting to prove how woke they are.”
Don’t do that because you whitesplain racial politics to POC, you get a few looks.
The Mayers, a black family, move into all-white Suburbicon a planned development. In a place where scandals amount to running short on bluing for wash day, and neighbors are convinced tthese here coloreds will turn their little enclave into Baltimore (you know, full of blacks) by acting like animals – so they act like raving animals first. People watching their home at all hours, then the endless noise, the yelling, then the firebombs. They Mayers don’t show how much it bothers them, and that only makes the mob more dangerous.
I think the Coen brothers call that “irony”. The rest of us not living in among the preciously privileged call it day to day existence. It’s as if they say, “look how bright and pretty and downright hellacious it was for POC in the 1950s – good thing we’re not living in that hateful era. *sicker-snort*” Obviously, No one could have foreseen today’s events playing out as if we’d been thrown back 75 years, but this is still one of the more tone-deaf movies I’ve seen from established Hollywood creators in a while.
Meanwhile, Gardner Lodge’s (Matt Damon) family is falling apart. His wife (Julianne Moore) is killed in a home invasion and her sister (Julianne Moore) moves in to keep around the house. As it’s a dual role, you can imagine exactly where this is headed. Lodge seems uncooperative with the police. The police are trying to help Gardner find the criminals, but he is suspiciously uncooperative. By the time our suspicions are confirmed, you will have stopped caring. His son (Noah Jupe) knows something’s up, but like the Mayers, he’s a ghost in a film that could be capitalizing on his point of view.
Julianne’ Moore’s Margaret may be the unintentional comedic relief, but her version of “unhinged” feels not only forced, as is she’s channeling the world’s worst Marilyn Monroe impersonator. The juxtaposition of her perfect life against the Mayers’ nightmare feels like two different movies, and the Mayers’ plight is far more interesting. Set against the reality of the Meyers, everything Gardner and Rose do to keep on top of their crumbling looks ridiculous. Maybe that’s the point, but with how preachy it comes off, it fails.
It’s called a dark comedy, but there isn’t a whole lot funny about this movie. It isn’t even mildly humorous. It supposed to be uncomfortable but unlike the unraveling tension of the Lodges, no ebb to the Meyer storyline. The violence and vandalism only get worse and it stops making any real sense. Dare I say it, but it’s gratuitous. If this is supposed to be some peeling back of the curtain to highlight the sickness in America – dude, we’ve been running a fever. The Lodge storyline only gets more ridiculous as he tries to stay ahead of the police, the mob, and his son.`
Director George Clooney bemoaned the lack of visibility of POC and older women to the Oscars, and it seemed he intended to do something about it. Well, he’s made cardboard cutouts of people, given them nothing to do, and let the Coen Brothers write forgettable dialogue wrapped around a story film students could have handled better.
If you’re expecting better from a stellar cast, a pedigreed screenwriting team, and a director who seems to be willing to tell the story – so was I.
SUBURBICON (2017) is rated R for Matt Damon getting the cram smacked out of him, some swears, and a scene with the least erotic spanking I’ve ever seen.