By Rich Cline
This film feels kind of like what you’d expect from a collision between George Clooney and the Coen brothers: a comical noir thriller with a hefty dose of social commentary. Essentially two films mashed together, it paints a clever portrait of America in the 1950s with repressed rage, racial unrest and deep-seated greed. But the film’s most powerful angle is its story of a young boy’s rather nightmarish coming of age.
It’s set in 1959 middle America, where Suburbicon is the town of the future, an idyllic place to raise a family. Then the Meyers family moves in, the first black family, and the community blames them when the Lodges – dad Gardner (Matt Damon), mom Rose (Julianne Moore), son Nicky (Noah Jupe) and aunt Maggie (also Moore) – are violently attacked. But an insurance inspector (Oscar Isaac) suspects that Gardner knows more about his attackers (Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell) than he’s letting on. And Nicky knows he does. So as the neighbourhood descends into chaos to protest the Meyers’ presence, Nicky quietly befriends their son Andy (Tony Espinosa).
Clooney directs this in a colourful 1950s style, with jaunty music by Alexandre Desplat and vivid production design by James Bissell. This is a community that looks perfect on the surface, but more than a little rotten underneath. And the script lures the audience in with some clever twists and turns that shift perspectives and tones, playing with the way these people are interconnected. Much of this is observed through Nicky’s eyes, and he sees everything even if he can’t explain why something is happening. All of this builds to a properly intense final act that’s laced with wicked humour to gleefully keep the audience off balance. So even as it turns increasingly violent, the suspense and irony keep us entertained.
All of the performances are spot-on, from the hapless villains to the compromised heroes. Damon is terrific as a mild-mannered man trying to keep his cool as all kinds of horror swirls around him. Moore has a great time in her dual role, continually hinting at the dark motivations behind Maggie’s smooth-as-silk exterior. And it’s Jupe who provides the film’s heart, delivering a quietly expressive performance that reveals the deeper themes about tolerance and morality without ever preaching a sermon. This is a bracing exploration of the light and dark sides of American culture, cleverly delivering a searing message with wit and intelligence.
Production compaines: Dark Castle Entertainment, Silver Pictures, Black Bear Pictures, Smokehouse Pictures, Huahua Media
Starring: Matt Damon as Gardner, Oscar Isaac as Roger, Julianne Moore as Margaret, Glenn Fleshler as Ira Sloan, Lauren Burns as Mitch’s Secretary, Megan Ferguson as June, Michael D. Cohen as Stretch, Chrystall Friedemann as Neighbor Lady, Steve Monroe as Henry the Mailman, Brandon Duracher as Fireman, Gary Basaraba as Uncle Mitch, Noah Jupe as Nicky, Inbal Amirav as Church Choir Singer, Emily Goss as Clinic Mom