'Suburbicon': what you see is not always what you get


It's the perfect town. Everyone's grass is meticulously maintained. Crime is virtually nonexistent. A friendly wave to all the neighbors is an everyday occurrence. The new film Suburbicon from director George Clooney focuses on this community that shares its name.

As with any idyllic community, nothing could possibly be going on behind closed doors, and everything is just as it seems -- right? Wrong! What you see is not always what you get.

The community is in an uproar over some new neighbors -- who happen to be the first black family in Suburbicon. Residents have banded together to make it clear the new family isn't wanted. In fact, everyone in this purportedly perfect town has let their hair down, and the way they all look now is not pretty. They exhibit laser-like focus in their attempts to rid the town of the new neighbors, and they are vicious.

While everyone is focusing their anger at the change next door, Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) is still recovering from the car accident that placed his wife Rose in a wheelchair. If that's not bad enough, his family experiences a home invasion that results in Rose's death. Life doesn't seem as peaceful as one would imagine in the the Lodge domicile.

As Lodge copes with the death, Margaret, Rose's twin sister (Julianne Moore), moves in to help keep the family together. Lodge and his son Nicky (Noah Jupe) welcome Margaret and try to move forward. But there is more at play than meets the eye. Will anyone notice?

Since this film is written in part by Joel and Ethan Coen, who shared the screen credits with Clooney and Grant Heslov, you immediately know there is more going on beneath the surface. There is humor in a largely darker social context here. Much of the early reaction to the new neighbors feels uncomfortable and, in fact, this plot point seems almost hidden in the trailers. I won't go into specifics here, either, because it shocks and sets a tone for the film.

That tone is what stuck with me long after the film concluded. Although my initial reaction was one of disappointment, I now really want to experience it again with a fresh mindset. The social commentary layered into this film is the star. It's a commentary on the visceral fear we hold without a rational foundation -- and at the same time an examination of the flawed belief that everyone around us has no problems or issues that lie behind their seemingly perfect exterior.

Suburbicon is by no means a perfect town (or film, for that matter). Problems exist, but the movie's ability to generate conversation while generating a laugh or two, well, that makes Suburbicon a film to see.

Paul's Grade: B-


Rated R

Stars: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe

Director: George Clooney

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