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FNE at Venice 2017: Review: Suburbicon

Suburbicon Suburbicon

VENICE: The honourary Italian from Lake Como George Clooney is back on the Lido with a quirky film called Suburbicon with a script by the Coen brothers that he has amended to make it his own.

Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns that reminds us of episodes of Leave it to Beaver and other popular American shows of the period . It’s a great place to raise a family.  The film is set in the summer of 1959, and the Lodge family is that typical suburban family of the suburban myth.  Only the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge played by Matt Damon is a 1950’s financial type before the high-rolling days of investment banking made banking both sinister and sexy.  This is a button-down shirt, boring 1950’s father type.  Or so it seems.

But the film starts out with a very odd crime when the Lodge home in invaded by two robbers played by Glen Flesher and Alex Hassell who tie up the whole family and chloroform everyone.

This included Gardner’s son Nicky played by Noah Jupe and his wife Rose who is an invalid in a wheelchair played by Julianne Moore.  The whole episode seems like some kind of set-up and it is.  The frail wife Rose does not recover from the chloroform and dies.

Gardner returns to his office seemingly devastated but later when he is asked to identify the two robbers in a police lineup he looks right at them and does not identify them letting the audience know that something is rotten in suburbia.  Damon who has made quite a career out of playing nerdy villains excels himself here with Gardner who ends up establishing a new home-life with Rose’s twin sister Margaret also played by Moore who is the ideal 1950s woman and a prime example of Leave It To Beaver motherhood.  Highly desirable in every way for a man like Gardner.

Enter an insurance company investigator played by Oscar Isaac who smells a rat and is not going to allow Gardner like happily ever after.

Meanwhile we also follow the travails of the couple next door, the Meyers played by Karimah Westbrook and Leith M Burke, the first negro family to move into the neighbourhood.  They encounter some pretty rough sailing and a fair dose of discrimination from their neighbours and local shopkeepers.  Noah and their son Andy played by Tony Espinosa become not exactly pals but become acquainted in the way kids in a neighbourhood do.

Clooney has said that the Coen brothers The Coen brothers wrote the original Suburbicon in the 1980’s but never made it into a film. Clooney called them and asked if he could take a crack at the script setting it in a typical small town in 1950s America and they agreed. He said “This is a film I wanted to make because I liked the themes. It seemed like a good time to talk about building fences and scapegoating minorities, but wrapped in a weird thriller. I always loved the idea of a murder in a perfect town and everyone looking in the wrong direction. It’s a story of a time and place that unfortunately we never really have gotten away from.”

While it is easy to find yourself wondering what the film would have looked like in the hands of the Coen brothers Clooney has wisely made the film his own and come up with an original and entertaining take on themes we have seen before but that still work in this context.

Suburbicon (USA)
Directed by George Clooney
Cast: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell, Marah Fairclough, Megan Ferguson, Noah Jupe, Michael D. Cohen, Jack Conley, Diane Dehn, Tim Neff, Gary Basaraba, Emily Goss.

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