George Clooney might be a dependable leading man but his output as a director has been inconsistent, starting strongly with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck then taking a nosedive with Leatherheads and The Monuments Men.
Suburbicon falls into the latter category. Working with an unproduced screenplay by the Coen brothers, with additions from himself and co-writer Grant Heslov, Clooney delivers an erratic murder-mystery-noir set in an idyllic US suburb during the 1950s.
The titular community goes into racist meltdown when an African-American family move in, but this proves to be kind of a McGuffin – the real story is what’s going on with their neighbours, the Lodges.
Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon), his wheelchair-bound wife Rose (Julianne Moore), and their young son (Noah Jupe) endure a home invasion which leaves Rose dead and loan sharks circling for the substantial insurance payout.
When the supposedly grief stricken Gardner hooks up with his wife’s twin sister (more Moore), and deliberately fails to identify the suspects in a police line-up, you’ll quickly begin to join the dots.
The dark underbelly of picket fence suburbia has been explored to great effect in films like Blue Velvet and American Beauty, but not in Suburbicon. The tone is all over the place, the plot lacks any sort of cohesion, and the film can’t decide which genre it belongs to – black comedy, thriller, melodrama, horror? There’s a reason the Coens never directed this one, and only Oscar Isaac emerges unscathed, with a brief but memorable appearance as a snooping insurance agent.
Considering the talent onboard, the ‘con’ in Suburbicon is that you’re led to believe you’ll be getting a better movie than this – it’s kind of like The Snowman in that regard.
In cinemas: October 26, 2017
Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe
Directed by: George Clooney
See what Clooney and the cast have to say in our interview from TIFF.