‘Suburbicon’ might be a little over-stuffed
“Suburbicon” is an oddball black comedy about murder and sex and insurance fraud and strained family dynamics. On top of all that, it wants to grapple with full-on racism too.
If that sounds like “Suburbicon” is a little over-stuffed, you’d be right. Its saving grace is that it’s fitfully very funny, albeit in very dark ways.
In order to do all it sets out to accomplish, the movie has to tell two very different stories simultaneously, with the only connective tissue being that both narratives take place quite literally next door to each other.
Everything that happens in the film takes place in the fictional town of Suburbicon sometime in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.
All of this gets resolved by movie’s end, but not before many more gruesome deaths take place.
And yes, you laugh at many of them.
Believe it or not, one of the biggest laughs occurs while a bloodied Matt Damon is frantically and incongruously riding a kid’s bike down a highway when one of the killers pulls up beside him in a car. It’s black humor at its darkest.
The other storyline, about the African-American family, is not played for laughs at all and gets relatively short shrift in the film. It’s connection to the rest of the film is at best tenuous.
Word is that George Clooney and another screenwriter added this storyline to the Coen brothers’ original script, and it shows.
My best theory is that Clooney sees a thematic parallel between the two stories: that the veneer of polite American society often masks a much darker and uglier side, a side that very well maybe sociopathic and/or racist.
I would just say the film would be stronger if the two parts were better integrated.
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