Movie Review: Suburbicon

If you’re white, you’re welcome in “Suburbicon.”

“Suburbicon” wants to make you laugh, and it succeeds from time to time.  Bubbling beneath the surface of the starry-eyed suburban life of America in the 1950’s is a nastiness that can be funny in a very curious kind of way. But, “Suburbicon” is also probably the most-confused write-up of social comedy from the Coen Brothers to ever make it to the big screen.

First, there’s the story of racism in “white bread” America. Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) and his family live next door to Suburbicon’s first black family. The year is 1959 and the neighborhood can scarcely believe that these black folks would dare move into this all-white city. The African-American family, who we hardly get to know in this story, makes a heroic effort to ignore Suburbicon’s openly hateful treatment. How they endure it all might have made a better movie.

But, then you have the second plot-line. Lodge and his family are mostly unaffected by the racist hullabaloo next door. Instead, the family is reeling from the effects of a violent home invasion that ends with the murder of Gardner’s wife, Rose (Julianne Moore). The two men who perpetuate the crime are strange and not everything is as it seems. Things get particularly tense when Rose’s sister (also played by Julianne Moore) moves in to look after Gardner’s son, Nicky (Noah Jupe). It should be also mentioned there’s another unsavory character lurking about, an insurance investigator (nicely played by Oscar Isaac).

My biggest complaint about “Suburbicon” is its split personality. It tries to be a social commentary about segregation in the suburbs AND present a completely unconnected murder mystery. In other words, there’s too much crammed into this 105 minute comedy to be believed.  Director/co-writer George Clooney tried his best to navigate through the story’s flaws, but fails. Still, his ensemble cast is populated by funny and intensely weird characters and their outrageously bizarre behaviors. If you decide to go see “Suburbicon,” sit back and enjoy its flakiness and don’t worry about it all making sense. Grade: C+

Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) gets a good talking-to in “Suburbicon.”