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REVIEW: Matt Damon and Julianne Moore captivate in Suburbicon

Saturday - 28/10/2017 19:25
REVIEW: It’s got great actors, superb production design and an intriguing set-up, but George Clooney’s Suburbicon somehow manages to disappoint.
Julianne Moore in Suburbicon. Picture: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures via APSource:AP
Julianne Moore in Suburbicon. Picture: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures via APSource:AP

IS Suburbicon’s main protagonist, Gardner Lodge, a few sandwiches short of a full picnic? Or is the man so goddamned entitled he just assumes he can get away with murder?

Despite Matt Damon’s considerable skill as an actor, it’s never entirely clear in this, his latest collaboration with George Clooney, co-written with the Coen brothers.

Julianne Moore, left, and Matt Damon in a scene from Suburbicon. Picture: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures via AP
Julianne Moore, left, and Matt Damon in a scene from Suburbicon. Picture: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures via APSource:AP

Given the goings-on next door to Lodge’s carefully manicured, almost denuded, suburban lot — his new African-American neighbours are harassed day and night by a bunch of angry white men — it’s probably reasonable to assume the latter.

While the ugly, racist fracas is almost incidental to the main murder mystery, it’s clear the residents of Suburbicon, one of the homogenous cookie-cutter communities that sprung up in the US in the late ’50s, believe themselves to be at the top of the food chain.

And that they’ll do almost anything maintain that status.

Karimah Westbrook plays Mrs Mayers, one of Lodge’s neighbours in <i>Suburbicon</i>. Picture: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures via AP
Karimah Westbrook plays Mrs Mayers, one of Lodge’s neighbours in Suburbicon. Picture: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures via APSource:AP

Damon and Clooney’s decision to dial down Lodge’s evil intentions to everyman proportions is appealing — Damon can do extraordinary things with that furrowed brow.

But Gardner Lodge keeps his emotions so tightly in check, the guy is pretty much unreadable.

It might have been good to have a little more to work with, especially since none of the other characters is any more forthcoming.

Julianne Moore plays the twin roles of Lodge’s crippled wife and her duplicitous, two-timing sister to ditzy perfection (although the Oscar-winning actor has cut her own grass with a similarly retro villain Poppy in Kingsman: The Golden Circle).

Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell hold the line as the two creepy home invaders who murder Lodge’s wife and Oscar Isaac makes a surprisingly brief appearance as an oily life insurance investigator.

Since the adults give us so little to work with, the onus falls on Lodge’s kid, Nicky (Noah Dupe) to fill in some of the gaps.

He, too, is keeping shtum.

Noah Jupe plays Nicky in <i>Suburbicon</i>. Picture: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures via AP
Noah Jupe plays Nicky in Suburbicon. Picture: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures via APSource:AP

It terms of characterisation, Nicky’s response feels right — this is an era where kids were seen and not heard.

It’s almost as if we are witnessing events from his limited point of view.

But since Nicky lacks the emotional maturity to process what is going on, we wind up with as little comprehension as he does. A Spielbergian youngster might have provided a bit more insight.

Clooney and his long-time producing partner Grant Heslov co-wrote Suburbanicon (suburban con or suburban icon?) with Joel and Ethan Coen. The screenplay has the brothers’ distinctive fingerprints all over it.

Oscar Isaac in a scene from Suburbicon. Picture: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures via AP
Oscar Isaac in a scene from Suburbicon. Picture: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures via APSource:AP

The film stars two of the finest actors in the business, both of whom deliver nuanced performances, and the production design is flawless.

But tonally, Suburbicon is very flat.

Given its exceptional pedigree, Clooney’s latest directorial effort is being widely touted as a disappointment.

That’s true. But there’s something deeply fascinating about its flaws.

Suburbicon is now screening.

SUBURBICON (MA15+)

Director: George Clooney

Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac

Running time: 104 minutes

Verdict: Fascinatingly flawed

Rating: Three stars (three out of five)

Source: News Corp Australia Network:

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