There goes the neighborhood in this smug, would-be satire from director George Clooney
O George Clooney, where art thou?
The director’s “Suburbicon” — a satirical nostalgia-noir mashed up with a broad racial commentary — may have been interesting on paper, a way to jolt a standard Coen Brothers tale with some politically relevant topicality. (The Coens wrote the script, along with Clooney and his creative partner, Grant Heslov.)
The final product, however, is one of the year’s biggest clunkers, a massive miscalculation that doesn’t work on any level and serves as a lesson in how to stop something dead in its tracks.
Matt Damon is Gardner Lodge, who lives in an idyllic suburb in 1950s America. Everything is white bread and hunky dory as can be. That is, until a black family moves into the lot behind them, shaking up the neighborhood and exposing the racism bubbling just underneath the community’s shiny, happy veneer.
There are far more sinister elements at play, however. Gardner has hired goons to stage a robbery and get rid of his wheelchair-bound wife, Rose (Julianne Moore) so he can take up with her sister, Margaret (also Julianne Moore). Except the plot goes wrong — this is a Coen Brothers story, after all — and soon an insurance agent (Oscar Isaac) is sniffing around the case, knowing something stinks.
He’s right. “Suburbicon” is burdened by a laborious script that’s not funny, despite its dark comic visions, and a sharply shifting tone that could cause whiplash. It’s like “Fargo” if it had a left field subplot about racism.
“Suburbicon” wants to say something about us, today, but it can’t get the words right. It can’t even get the language right. It’s as marble-mouthed as its title.
Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality
Running time: 105 minutes