Entertainment » Movies


by Derek Deskins
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Feb 6, 2018

The Coen Brothers have a filmography that makes cinephiles drool. A new Coen Brothers movie gets us nerds on Film Twitter so excited that we basically trip over ourselves trying to prove just who is the most excited about this new piece of gold. They have produced so many fantastic films that critics and fans quietly ignore their less noble entries like "The Ladykillers" and "Intolerable Cruelty," because when you have a "Fargo" or "The Big Lebowski" right around the corner, you learn to forgive.

But the thing about the Coens is that they have a few odd cases where they make the decision not to direct their own screenplays. "Suburbicon" is only the fifth movie that the pair has written and chosen not to direct, and like all of the rest, there appears to be a reason for that: it's just not very good.

The 1959 neighborhood of Suburbicon is idyllic in only a way the Americana of the 50s could be. Each house sits neatly in its place and the all-white residents are the picture of Rockwellian happiness. Gardner Lodge appears to have it all: a nice home, a bright young boy, and a beautiful wife. All that gets turned upside down when a late-night home invasion results in deadly consequences. As Gardner tries to move on, it becomes evident that he may not be as innocent as perceived.

"Suburbicon" is really two separate stories shoved into the same container. The film that was sold to audiences was a George Clooney film by way of the Coen Brothers. A dark, bloody tale of crimes committed by those that aren't entirely sure what they are doing, with the promise of some twisted humor mixed in for good measure. The bits of that movie are there, although not as funny or satisfying as it thinks it is.

The other part is essentially a retelling of the 1957 incident in Levittown, PA, where a black family moved into an all-white neighborhood, resulting in hate-filled riots and general white unrest. The pieces live almost entirely independent from one another and rarely find any place of intersectionality. Instead, they are shoved together awkwardly, seemingly in the hope that the commentary on race can elevate the lackluster story of crime gone wrong (spoiler: it doesn't).

Despite the largely mediocre film, the Blu-ray release does a lot to try to make it better. The special features, including three behind-the-scenes looks and a commentary with Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov, do all that they can to highlight the Levittown narrative of the film. Through these features, it becomes obvious that this is the story that Clooney wanted to tell. All of the dark bits with Damon were just an excuse to utilize this old American aesthetic. It provides light to why the film doesn't work, even if it isn't able to actually make the film any better.


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