Suburbicon (2017) - George Clooney
Heavy-handed and didactic in nearly every facet, George Clooney's Suburbicon is a convoluted trainwreck of a suburban social-satire; a film which is painstakingly-handled tonally, while being disheveled in its inability to be nuanced, concise, and quite frankly competent in nearly any way. Set against the racial integration of the 1950s and 1960s, Suburbicon ineffectively attempts have it all, juggling its murder mystery/social satire narrative with social/political/economical assertions about race in suburban America, a tactic which at best feels clumsy, at worst feels salacious and offensive. Many films do wonderful jobs of inter-laying socio-political commentary with ease into their respective character's personal journey, yet Suburbicon's attempts are woefully lazy and underdeveloped. The film wants it all, being forceful in its attempt to insert a half-baked, lazy, and salacious integration side-plot into the murder-mystery narrative, one in which a black family is tormented. The filmmakers don't come off as individuals wishing to shine a light on issues which need addressing, no they instead come off as dettached due to this bombastic treatment, exploitative in approach due to their unwillingness or inability to develop the characterizations of this tormented black family, individuals regulated almost entirely to the background, used cheaply and salaciously for dramatic heft - something which the film's core narrative itself lacks. The main narrative arch of Suburbicon, a murder-mystery/social satire yarn centered around a young boy, is tonally far too serious, as the filmmakers themselves don't seem to grasp pitch black undercurrents and b-movie sensibilities of this story. That isn't to say everyone falls into this trapping, as Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaacs seem to be two actors well aware of the type of movie they are in, both giving skillfully accentuated, playful performances, ones which clearly recognize the black comedy nature and b-movie plotting of the film they signed up for. Even the point-of-view is confused in Suburbicon, where it's whole-heartily this young boy's story, one in which his innocence is shattered by discovering the heinous underlying reasons of his mother's death, yet the film doesn't even give him very much screen-time, unwilling to spend the time to build this characterization too. Perhaps what is so frustrating and endlessly fascinating about this complete failure of a film is just how many different ways it could have worked whether that be as a psychological horror, social satire, b-movie murder mystery, or socio-political commentary about America itself, all these elements are there; the filmmaker's just couldn't pull any of them off effectively. George Clooney's Suburbicon is a film which wants to reveal the darkness, filth, and ugliness which lies underneath the surface of polite, proper, puritanical society, but unfortunately the film is more effective in revealing the simplistic, detached nature of its filmmakers.
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