George Clooney directing can be a thrilling (The Ides of March), enlightening (Good Night, and Good Luck), somewhat silly (Leatherheads) and far-reaching (The Monuments Men) experience. What type of experience can one expect when diving into the newly released on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital formats, Suburbicon? Well…
Matt Damon stars as Gardner Lodge, a man of his time. World War II is merely years behind him and as the 50s start to define itself, he and his family find themselves residing in the idyllic community of Suburbicon.
It is a suburb, like so many in America at that time, that is faceless due to its house-to-house conformity. Millions of citizens across this great nation moved to these communities, just like the one portrayed in Suburbicon. In Clooney’s film, the idyllic nature of Lodge and his family’s surroundings are mere masks for something sinister that lies just beneath the surface. When you think you know people, you can never really know what goes on behind closed doors and pulled blinds. Kind of sounds like now, doesn’t it?!
That is Clooney and his team’s first attempt at making a period piece that makes a statement about the world we reside in currently. His second attempt arrives in the form of what occurs when the first African American family moves into this pearly white landscape and the issues that arise from this seismic shift in cultural and legal mores of this period in history. Let’s just say it does not go smoothly. Overall, what should be an important and powerful statement making movie moment only deepens the muck that audiences must trudge through to get to some sort of conclusion.
Then, there’s this entire mob lurking in the shadows and rearing its head in the most inopportune times for our protagonist (who is in many ways simultaneously our antagonist as well). Lodge is a complicated man in terms of the layers of his character. Yet, as it is written by Joel and Ethan Coen (yes, the Coen brothers!), the deeper we get into Lodge’s soul, the more muddled the entire plot becomes. We suspect that has more to do with the fact that when it was announced that Clooney would be directing, he and his writing partner (Grant Heslov) took at stab at the script and added their own flair (most likely to the detriment of the overall picture). We would have loved to have seen the movie that should have been made from the Oscar winning Coen brothers’ angle only.
Damon is terrific as a not-so-likable character, something he does not get to do very often. Julianne Moore is her usually awesome self as twins, Rose and Margaret (the first sister is married to Lodge and doesn’t survive the film’s opening moments, which is why the sister comes to live with the family to help the hapless 50s male raise his children and keep the home moving forward. Damon and Moore have a fine chemistry between them, it is just with the story trying to make too many points that their talents are wasted as the audience is forced to navigate a mine field of mundane plot movement that is honestly all over the place.
Oscar Isaac (recently seen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi) pops in for a surprisingly small role and even though he brings much life to a lesser developed character than should be, by the final third of the film, audiences are likely forgetting what it is exactly he was supposed to be doing in terms of the overall arc of Suburbicon.
All told, there is 50 minutes of bonus features that is more fascinating that the messy film itself.
Lately, bonus features have given us making-of featurettes that leave us begging for more. It seems the average length of a behind-the-scenes spot is under 10 minutes and that is just not enough time for a film that has grabbed us by the collar and not let go! Ironically, the Suburbicon Blu-Ray contains an almost half-an-hour look at the making of a not-so-good film with stars Moore, Isaac and Damon extoling the virtues of their fearless leader Clooney and so much more. Its look at the racial aspect of the story, production design, costumes, cars and even cinematography are of the highest order of compelling. It’s just, sadly, for a film that we don’t truly care too much to see how they achieved what they did because what they delivered was just not that good.
Same can be said for The Usual Suspects: Casting and Scoring Suburbicon. It would be interesting to discover how the cast came together and how the music enhanced the overall tone. But… why do we care to find out when the finished product left us seeking the off button and not the menu button to seek out the film’s bonus features?
Film Grade: D
Bonus Features: C-