Clooney's 'Suburbicon' just too suburban

AP
The perfect veneer of 1950s suburban life is just a mask for the deep rot and hypocrisy festering underneath the trimmed lawns in George Clooney's "Suburbico." 
AP

The perfect veneer of 1950s suburban life is just a mask for the deep rot and hypocrisy festering underneath the trimmed lawns in George Clooney’s “Suburbicon,” a derivative and somewhat edgeless satire with some nonetheless compelling performances.

Clooney directs a script credited to Joel and Ethan Coen, himself and Grant Heslov about a model community, Suburbicon, that promises a perfect suburban existence: a parcel of property for all, clean and well-stocked grocery stores, no traffic and friendly neighbors. But there’s a catch and it is skin deep.

This is a problem when the Meyers family (Karimah Westbrook, Leith M. Burke and Tony Espinosa) moves to town. They are black.

Crowds start to gather outside the Meyers house until it becomes an all-out mob. The plight of the Meyers family is just the side story, though, a tacked-on and bluntly conceived commentary on how this community is too distracted by their racist fears to see what’s going on next door, where Gardner (Matt Damon), his wheelchair-bound wife and his sister-in-law (both played by Julianne Moore) and his young son, Nicky (Noah Jupe) are terrorized in their own home by two goons.

It’s probably best not to say much about how this home invasion spirals and evolves, but it brings a fair amount of intrigue and terrific side characters.

Westbrook does wonders as Mrs Meyers with not much screen time or dialogue. And the young Jupe proves to be a compelling find, carrying much of the film as the hyper-vigilant kid watching his world unravel and doing something about it.

The leads are more underwhelming. Damon plays Gardner as a kind of quiet everyman, the type who recedes into the background and goes unnoticed most of the time. Moore is more over-the-top, especially as the sister-in-law Margaret, who strains to be the perfect 50s woman.

Of all the periods that Clooney could have chosen to skewer, it feels almost toothless to take on 50s suburbia, though.

Certainly there are meant to be parallels with today, but it is too obvious to be particularly subversive or revealing, and doesn’t even go far enough to satirize the hypocritical social mores of the time.

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