By Jacob Mello (Austin, TX, US)
A husband and father must navigate the dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit and violence in a 1950’s picturesque suburban neighborhood. *take this synopsis with a grain of salt*
· Directed By: George Clooney
· Written By: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Grant Heslov, George Clooney
· Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac
The trailer for this film sells us on a twisted underdog story in which: after the mob moves into a peaceful 1950’s suburban town, a family man finds himself indebted to a loan shark; throwing his world into chaos and leaving him plunging down the rabbit hole of violence and depravity to keep his family whole. This is certainly an interesting idea, and I’d love to see such a movie. The problem is, aside from the setting, this isn’t at all what this film was about.
I realize this gripe is only orthogonally related to the quality of the film itself, but it’s a shady fact that tells us everything we need to know about this project: This is a film so lacking in substance that they knew their best shot at selling tickets wasn’t in giving an honest preview, but instead in mining the film for clever snippets that they could rearrange out of context to pervert an entirely different plot to sucker us with.
The actual film was about a man desperately trying to keep the walls from closing in as his scheme to cash in on his wife’s life insurance policy, and retire with her twin sister, goes awry. This isn’t an awful story idea, but it was executed terribly. Also, before tossing the original script out in the late ’80’s, you get the feeling the Coen’s poached and distilled the meat of this idea to create William H Macey’s character in Fargo.
This film’s subplot was about an African-American family moving into the all-white town of Suburbicon, and the subsequent actions the town collectively takes to push them out. This caught most of the theater off guard as this major chunk of the film was in no way touched on in the trailer, and had absolutely no business in the movie to begin with. I realize the aim here was to paint a picture of the rotten, corrupt middle-class white-America that’s lurking just underneath the veneer of the soda pop midcentury-modern suburb; that could be almost any neighborhood in middle America (or whatever) – but it struck me as a card to play, just for the sake of it; and I kind of despise that. On its own, it made for lousy cinema, and intertwined with this story it added absolutely nothing.
The story was never intriguing, and the danger was never worth the set up. Due to the track record and caliber of talent on both sides of the camera, I’ll file this one away as artists trying to go for something, and missing. No shame in that. But at the moment, what I feel about this movie, is that it was plain disingenuous.
For better collaborations between the Coen’s and these artists: Watch The Big Lebowksi, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Inside Llewyn Davis, True Grit.