Written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Suburbicon's title refers to the name of the town where the film takes place, an planned 1950s hellscape of a community. It's home to Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon), the milquetoast vice president of finance for local corporation Pappas & Swain, Gardner's paraplegic wife Rose (Julianne Moore), their son Nicky (Noah Jupe) and Rose's sister Maggie (Moore).
Suburbicon claims to be idyllic, but really, it was built as a haven for racist white people. We experience this through the plight of the Mayers, a black family who move in next to the Lodges at the beginning of the movie. We overhear racists comments from new broadcasts and the Mayers's neighbors like, "They don't seek to better themselves" and "You remember what happened in Baltimore and Trenton." As the film goes on, the neighbors build fences to separate themselves from the Mayerses. Naturally, none of these "nice folks" harbor any suspicions about Gardner, who is masterminding an insurance fraud that will go horribly wrong.
Director George Clooney is not subtle in constructing this dichotomy, but the Mayers subplot occupies only a small part of the film and is more context than storyline. As it is, it's an oversimplification that's not given enough space in the film for nuanced commentary.
Clooney, along with cinematographer Robert Elswit, does an admirable approximation of the brothers' visual style. The performances throughout are solid, with Oscar Isaac stealing the show as the Edward G. Robinson-esque claims investigator.
Suburbicon is not perfect, but it's at least enjoyable. With a twisty storyline that borrows from multiple genres, it's sort of like a one-man band. It may sound muddled, but it's unique enough that it's hard to look away.
CRITIC'S RATING: 3/4 stars.
Suburbicon is rated R and now playing at Bridgeport, Clackamas, City Center, Division, Eastport, Fox Tower, Lloyd Center, Tigard.