SUBURBAN HEART OF DARKNESS
THERE is a telling scene in George Clooney’s Suburbicon. An upstanding family man is spotted late at night, pedalling a bicycle down the tree-lined streets of his town. Asked what he is doing, he blithely replies he is “out for a ride”.
What he doesn’t explain is why his shirt is caked in blood and why he has been trying to hide the corpse of a murdered man.
Suburbicon is Clooney’s finest film as a director since Good Night And Good Luck. Co-scripted by the Coen brothers, it is wildly entertaining in its own macabre, violent fashion, and perceptive about racism and hypocrisy in middle-class white America.
Although set in the 1950s, it feels timely given recent events involving white nationalists. In one of the film’s less subtle moments, we see rioters draping the Confederate flag on a windowsill of the home of the black family they want to kick out of their cosy suburban neighbourhood.
The film unfolds in Suburbicon, a model town founded in 1947. It has every amenity imaginable, including a firstrate hospital, even a choir. The townsfolk are living their version of the post-war American dream, and basking in a new era of affluence. They are cheerful and hyper-friendly – at least until the black family moves in. “We don’t want them here,” the white folk quickly make very clear.
Matt Damon plays yet another all-American type. His character, Gardner Lodge, is a seemingly affluent husband and father with a 10-year-old son, Nicky (Noah Jupe.) His wife Nancy is in a wheelchair, and her lookalike sister Margaret (Julianne Moore) is also living with them.
The storyline is every bit as far-fetched as those of the melodramatic operas that insurance investigator (Oscar Isaac) so enjoys.
Clooney fills Suburbicon with Hitchcock-like touches and references to film noir: a killing witnessed by a character hiding under a bed, who can only see the shoes of the victim; suspenseful scenes in which we never quite know who is going to eat the poison first; ominous close-ups of knives and guns, and lots of pounding music at the most climactic moments.
The increasingly bizarre and psychopathic behaviour of the adults is witnessed by the boy (played with wonderful wide-eyed innocence by Jupe).
There are two parallel narratives here. One (full of sex, murder and conspiracy) involves the Lodge family. The other deals with the victimisation of their black neighbours.
Clooney, his co-writer Grant Heslow and the Coen brothers are paying their own twisted compliment to the citizens of Suburbicon. They’re showing that these conformist middleclass Americans have far more imagination and capacity for mischief than anyone could have guessed. – The Independent
HITCHCOCK-ESQUE: A scene from Suburbicon.