The suburbs are a cynically commercial repackaging of community. Developers futilely attempt to reconstruct the organic essence of small towns and villages with identical houses and artificial boundaries. In 2017, the suburbs – or at least, the Platonic ‘50s ideal of the suburb – feel immune to effective satire, despite many attempts: they’re already so patently false, so utterly absurd, so completely encapsulating of capitalism’s pretty failures.
George Clooney’s Suburbicon – a black comedy set in the heart of a new 1950s suburb – fails not only because it offers nothing new in its ‘satire’ of suburban life, but because it, too, relies on cynically repackaging familiar elements.
Many of these elements are borrowed from the Coen Brothers (somewhat understandably, given they’re credited as co-writers). You have Matt Damon as an Episcopalian version of Fargo’s Jerry Lundegaard, Glenn Fleshler as Blood Simple.’s M. Emmet Walsh, the entire setting closely resembling the sparse suburbs of A Serious Man.
Clooney, a regular Coens collaborator, knows the notes but he can’t master the music. Even Julianne Moore is a disappointment, recycling the airily psychotic performance she delivered in Kingsman. While there are bright spots – specifically, Oscar Isaac’s brief appearance – Suburbicon is flaccid where it should be razor-sharp.