Friday, October 27, 2017
SUBURBICON: THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD!
Directed by George Clooney and starring Mark Damon and Julianne Moore.
The opening credits of Suburbicon depict a paint-box picture of a whitebread housing development in the late 1950s. But we quickly learn that within its cookie-cutter homes its clockwork people lace peanut-butter sandwiches with poison, serve coffee with lye, commit murder for life insurance benefits. And when the first black family moves in, it doesn’t take long before the neighbors deposit a Confederate flag on the doorstep, encircle the house with fences, and gather nightly to jeer insults and hurl bricks.
No mistake about it: SUBURBICON is a nasty piece of work about as awful collection of racist bigots and perverted characters that can be found this side of the Coen Brothers.
Indeed, the Coens wrote the script, in collaboration with director George Clooney.
Matt Damon is Gardner Lodge, an unassuming, buttoned-down businessman who lives with a paralyzed wife, victim of an automobile accident, her twin sister, and a young son. A violent home invasion assaults the family and leaves the paralyzed wife dead. But nothing is as it seems. Soon after the funeral, we find Gardner cuddling up with his very obliging sister-in-law. And the home invasion turns out to be a staged hit job to get his wife out of the way, collect the insurance, and skip town with his new honey. But one day the hit men show up angrily demanding their money. Then the insurance man arrives, convinced the case “stinks,” as he puts it and demands hush money. Things are closing in on good old Gardner. Worse, his young son knows all. And he’s in the way of a getaway.
Meanwhile, the neighbors are closing in on the hapless black family next door, under daily assault.
Murder, mayhem, race hatred are served up with a trowel. And an occasional Mad Magazine humor skitters crazily in and around the story, like a skateboard gone berserk.
Critics and viewers already HATE it. And I can’t blame them. The film veers crazily in tone, from the pastel colors of its grocery stores and hair salons to the thundering dark tones of its homicides and mayhem. There is no subtlety to characters and situations, only sledgehammer transitions. It’s all hard angles and harsh contrasts, a geometry of scene and story that’s gone mad.
It vaguely resembles the post-card facades of Pleasantville and The Truman Show and the subtle delivery of Get Out... But I have to admit I admire its comic-book presentation, whose sheer audacity is in your face, with no apologies or moderation offered.
(Purportedly, SUBURBICON is based on a true-life incident about race violence in the post-war living experiment known as Levitown, a planned community in New York state.)