Suburbicon (2017) Review

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Keeva Stratton

Film Expert

The middle-class idyll of a 1950’s white suburban utopia is disturbed, when a house is broken into.

suburbiconimage via pinterest

Suburbicon is the 1950’s American dream. It’s the kind of estate where children play freely, the postman says a friendly hello, and every family shares their sugar. They are also white—very, very white.

Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) is enjoying this suburban bliss, when the unthinkable happens—his home is invaded, and his wife is murdered. It’s a chilling sequence of events, in a suburb that is supposedly free from all society’s ills.

His wife’s sister (Julianne Moore) moves in to help raise Gardner’s son, as the investigation takes place. Meanwhile, much to the horror of Suburbicon’s residents, a black family moves into the white neighbourhood. With the town’s attention firmly on discomforting this family, nobody seems to notice the disturbing events taking place at the Lodge home.

Suburbicon interweaves two stories designed to tell of the horrors of white post-war suburbia. Just beneath the surface of the American dream, lay an ugly core, where racism and violence are wilfully ignored.

As the viewer, our attention is primarily on the white family’s dramas, all while the terrible racist torment takes a background role. This appears to be a deliberate ploy by director George Clooney, whose message is not so subtle—whiteness and white problems are privileged, and as a terrible consequence, the horrors of racism are never given the spotlight they deserve.

It is a film that questions what we are comfortable with. It would seem it is easier for people to be horrified by the murder of a white woman, than to engage deeply with the ugliness of racism.

While I take Clooney’s point, and I appreciate the dark humour he injects into the murder plot, I’m not sure I’m at ease with the meshing of these two stories. With the powerful words of I am Not Your Negro still fresh in my mind, even with the best of intentions, I’m not sure a white lens once again trying to tell black stories is the best one.

Like the story itself, I feel quite split as to how I feel about this film. On the one hand, the murder story is well crafted, wickedly dark in its humour and brilliantly acted by both Damon and Moore. On the other, there is a really important story about racism, hatred and segregation that intentionally—and rightly—leaves you very, very uncomfortable.

Suburbicon is an intriguing commentary on post-war America that uses satire to critique the values embedded in the time. In true Coen Brothers style, it borders on the obscene and the absurd, in order to make insightful observations about the human condition.

 

Director: George Clooney

Stars: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore

Runtime: 1hr 44 mins

Release Date: October 26

Rating: MA15+

Reviewer Rating: 3/5

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