Review: ‘Suburbicon’ a disappointing could-have-been

When hearing that a film is written by the Coen brothers, is directed by George Clooney, and stars Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac, it’s difficult not to expect great things from the resulting motion picture.

Unfortunately, “Suburbicon” not only misfires, but continuously hints at the film it could have been. That tantalizing glimpse at a great movie only makes “Suburbicon” that much more of a letdown, and especially for fans of the Coen bros, Joel David Coen and Ethan Jesse Coen, downright upsetting.

Matt Damon stars as Gardner Lodge, a man with an idyllic home in an idyllic suburb (a suburb literally named Suburbicon, hence the film’s title. I’ll pause for your cringe). He lives with his wife, Rose (Julianne Moore, who also plays Rose’s twin sister, Margaret), and their son Nicky (Noah Jupe). One night two robbers are in the house, and give a little too much chloroform to Rose, killing her.

The rest of the movie follows Gardner in a classic Coen brothers’ plot, in which characters bite off more than they can chew, and things never go as planned. Basically, “Fargo” in the suburbs. The script, written in the mid ’80s, originally left the story there. George Clooney made the misguided decision to tack on a side plot in which an African-American family moves next door and is met with furious rancor by the all-white suburb. Neither storyline has any meaningful impact on the other, and it’s difficult to understand how Clooney thought sticking it in was a good idea. As the movie cuts between the two plotlines, neither are given proper attention, and both suffer as a result.

Additionally, the pacing is excruciatingly off in a majority of the scenes. One can feel the influence of the Coens in the absurdities that play out, but in Clooney’s directorial hands, the scenes fumble. The moments the movie works occur when Oscar Isaac shows up as an insurance agent. These scenes pop with a vigor that the rest of the movie lacks, and they’re far too short to help the movie at all. They do serve as a reminder of what the movie could have been as a whole, if either the script had not been tinkered with, or if Clooney were able to nail the delicate balance of dark humor in the film.

As it stands, “Suburbicon” is a disappointing misfire.

Loper rating: I give “Suburbicon” 2 perfectly mowed lawns out of 5.

‘Thank You For Your Service’ grounded, emotionally moving

Thank You For Your Service” a drama starring Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, and Beulah Koale. The movie follows the real-life story of several soldiers who return home from Iraq and readjust to civilian life. The movie is an emotionally moving and grounded look at PTSD and the struggles veterans face.

Loper rating: 4 veterans out of 5. See this movie, but be aware of the sometimes difficult-to-watch subject material.