‘Suburbicon’ review: Right ideas, wrong execution

At first glance, Suburbicon seems like it has all the right ideas for a compelling film about the fatal spuriousness of American virtue.

Air of aim and purpose

The film, however, doesn’t really work as seamlessly as it could have, and it certainly feels that the fault lies mostly on George Clooney’s too keen direction.

The screenplay, written by Joel and Ethan Cohen, pieces together elements for a rowdy tale of a suburban crime going horribly wrong. However, under Clooney’s guidance, the absurdist humor that should be part and parcel of the outrageous story line becomes disruptively sparse, for the sake of granting the film a layer of relevance through its setting of racial intolerance.

The film centers on an American family whose corrupted soul is slowly but surely unraveled when the insurance scam masterminded by the family patriarch (Matt Damon) and his sister-in-law (Julianne Moore) is threatened to be exposed. It's peppered with juicy bits and pieces that mine humor out of a devious plan going wrong.



Directed with sophistication

However, all the film’s possible delights are thwarted by an insistence to frame its exploration of the oppressive heart of America with a half-baked side plot: an African-American family is being bullied into leaving their home by their racist neighbors.

For sure, it all sounds brilliant on paper, especially since the world certainly feels like it is regressing towards a time when prejudice is stubbornly rationalized. Sadly, when executed, it all feels awkward and disjointed, resulting in a film that never really achieves what it sets out to do.

Screengrab from YouTube/Entertainment One UK

Thankfully, Suburbicon is crafted with satisfying sophistication.

The visuals actually evolve, with Clooney acknowledging that his film’s trajectory teeters slowly but surely towards darker territories. From depicting American suburbia with inviting sun-drenched vistas, he and cinematographer Robert Elswit deliberately shifts to showcase more shades and shadows. The latter half of the film actually feels like a competent thriller, with Clooney showcasing an affinity for directing the tensest of moments even under the backdrop of comedy. 

More admirable than enjoyable

Julianne Moore in 'Suburbicon.' Screengrab from YouTube/Entertainment One UK

Julianne Moore in 'Suburbicon.

' Screengrab from YouTube/Entertainment One UK

Suburbicon reaches farther than it should.

As a result, it confuses  audiences with what it tries to do. It is a film whose ambition, while admirable, gets in the way of enjoyment. – Rappler.com 

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.