Suburbicon

 

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Director George Clooney teams up with the Coen brothers to provide a masterclass in black comedy.

 

Suburbicon
Who's watching who? Matt Damon and Noah Jupe outside the box

 

Pitched as “a great place to raise a family,” Suburbicon is a residential utopia for middle-class America in the 1950s. For the viewer panic immediately sets in as we admire the manicured lawns, the identical driveways and the mailman smiling like the cat that got the cream. It feels like Pleasantville with a David Lynch mean streak. The music suggests we might be in Brian De Palma country, but this is really Alfred Hitchcock injected into the bloodstream of Tim Burton. The clue to the tone is evinced by the names of Ethan and Joel Coen attached to the screenplay, the past masters of black comedy. This takes us back even to their earliest work, such as Blood Simple, which has recently benefitted from a re-issue. And with George Clooney behind the camera – he re-shaped the script with his regular collaborator Grant Heslov – the film is bulked up with plenty of Hollywood virtuosity.

 

Julianne Moore returns to her favourite decade, the 1950s (cf. Far from Heaven, The Hours, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, etc), but this time plays two roles, the twin sisters Rose and Margaret Lodge. Rose is married to small-town financier Gardner Lodge (a nervous, bespectacled Matt Damon) and is confined to a wheelchair following a car accident. To help Rose and her young son, Nicky (Noah Jupe), Margaret has moved into their home in Suburbicon, where much of the action is viewed through the eyes of Nicky. Then two things happen. A coloured family moves next door and, in the middle of the night, the Lodge family is visited by two men, neither of whom could be described as friendly.

 

Without wishing to give too much away, Suburbicon is a devilishly stylish black comedy that plugs directly into the heart of 1950s’ paranoia. Furthermore, one doesn’t know where it’s going to take you, except up the garden path, over the fence and into the deepest recesses of a deranged Burtonesque neighbourhood. This is how black comedy should be played – with a straight face and a broad subversive leer.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Noah Jupe, Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell, Megan Ferguson, Jack Conley, Gary Basaraba, Michael D. Cohen, Karimah Westbrook, Tony Espinosa, Leith M. Burke, James Handy.

 

Dir George Clooney, Pro George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Joel Silver and Teddy Schwarzman, Screenplay Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney and Grant Heslov, Ph Robert Elswit, Pro Des James D. Bissell, Ed Stephen Mirrione, Music Alexandre Desplat, Costumes Jenny Eagan.

 

Paramount Pictures/Black Bear Pictures/Silver Pictures/Smoke House Pictures-Entertainment One.

104 mins. USA/UK. 2017. Rel: 24 November 2017. Cert. 15.