Maybe I should have gone to see Jigsaw.
Suburbicon opens up in a quiet, idyllic town in 1959, but things become chaotic when the Mayers, a black family, are the first African-Americans to move into town. If I never saw the trailer or knew the premise of the movie, I’d assume it was going to be about this family, as it seems like a compelling story to tell. That is not what the movie is about. The movie is about Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon), his family, and his dealings in the seedy underbelly of society. Gardner Lodge never even speaks to his new neighbors. So why does the movie open on the Mayers? A fair question.
After doing some research, I discovered that this movie came from two different ideas. The Coen Brothers wrote a script about a family who gets involved with some hired goons, and those circumstances then spiraling out of control. George Clooney wanted to do a movie based on true events of a black family moving into an all-white neighborhood in Levittown, PA. So rather than make two different movies, he decided to roll them into one big story. If you are thinking to yourself these two ideas seem too different to combine into one movie, you would be correct.
Matt Damon and Julianne Moore both do well in the movie, as you would expect Oscar winners to do. But the best actor in the movie is Oscar Isaac, playing an insurance agent. He seems to be the only one who knows he is in a black comedy written by the Coen brothers and acts accordingly. The other actors all try to walk a tightrope between straight-laced serious and mischievously funny that doesn't balance out.
It is possible Clooney is trying to send a message about race relations in America. That if the majority of the country stays fixated on the color of someone's skin, then they may not be able to see the actual evil things that are happening right next door. And that is a worthwhile message to send. Unfortunately, that message gets lost in the movie's confused tone, because, as I said before, these two stories don't belong in the same movie. You can't do a murder mystery, dark comedy and then ask us to have a serious look inward at race relations. Well, you could, if Suburbicon was made by a more surefooted director.