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dir George Clooney
scr Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney, Grant Heslov
prd George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Teddy Schwarzman
with Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Oscar Isaac, Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell, Gary Basaraba, Tony Espinosa, Karimah Westbrook, Leith M Burke, Jack Conley, Steven M Porter
release US 27.Oct.17, UK 24.Nov.17
Everything's just fine: Moore and Damon
TORONTO FILM FEST
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On the surface, this is a 1950s-tinged noir thriller with comical overtones. But it also has a pungent undercurrent of satirical social commentary, which isn't particularly surprising for a team-up between George Clooney and the Coens. There are so many facets to this film that it can't help but keep us engaged, whether being gripped by the mystery, feeling challenged about the injustice or identifying with one young boy's rather horrific coming of age.
In 1959, Suburbicon is the town of the future, an idyllic community full of happy people. Then the Meyers (Westbrook and Burke) move in, the first black family. And the community blames them when the Lodge family - dad Gardner (Damon), mum Rose (Moore), son Nicky (Jupe) and aunt Maggie (also Moore) - is menaced by murderous goons (Fleshler and Hassell). But clearly Gardner knows more about this home invasion than he's letting on. And as Nicky befriends the Meyers' son Andy (Espinosa), he can see that something isn't right.
Clooney directs in a chipper 50s style, with a jaunty Alexandre Desplat score and scenes of communal bliss. But right from the start he reveals cracks in the apparent perfection. This approach lulls the audience into some false expectations about the characters and their interconnections, infusing even the most fraught encounters with a wicked sense of humour. The final act is a small triumph in this sense, with violence on an almost Shakespearean level tempered by vicious wit.
Performances gauge this atmosphere perfectly. Of course in fine Coen fashion, the various villains are all rather hapless. Damon deepens Gardner as events escalate, nicely holding his nerve even as mayhem breaks out and the character twists. Moore has fun with her dual role; she's so good that we don't mind that her characters are underdeveloped. The quietly expressive young Jupe is excellent as our connection to the action. And Isaac adds a blast of scene-stealing edginess as a sneaky insurance investigator.
As the Lodge family's nightmare grows to Fargo-like proportions, there's also a massive race-fused confrontation brewing next door, always in the background but informing the main action in offbeat ways. Sometimes these two strands feel at odds with each other, but they actually say a lot about the push and pull of American society. And while the film never preaches any messages about tolerance or morality, it does have a quietly hopeful sting in its tail.
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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