Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Suburbicon Movie Review

            Matt Damon and Julianne Moore starring. George Clooney directing.  A Coen Brothers script. What’s not to like? Well according to most reviews and the effervescent Rotten Tomatoes, quite a bit.
            Thank goodness I didn’t read any of the reviews before going to the movie. The game for me with books and movies is if I can guess what’s going to happen next. The twists in Suburbicon took me by surprise, not just once, but several times.
            I liked the movie. There weren't a lot of laughs, but I left the theater smiling.
            The plot seems straightforward. Set in the 50s in a "planned" community, twin sisters, Rose and Maggie (both played by Moore), sit on the Lodge family backyard porch with Nicky (Noah Jupe), Rose’s young son. A black middle-class family, the Meyers, has moved into the house on the street behind them and their backyards converge, separated by a short, flimsy fence. Neighbors have voiced their concern over the new family. They’re worried about a rise in crime and devaluation of their homes.
            A boy, about the same age as Nicky, steps out of the Meyers’ house with a baseball glove and ball, and tosses it into the air. Nicky’s Aunt Maggie tells him to invite their new neighbor to play catch.
            Nice, huh?
            Well, don’t get too comfortable with your assumptions. The movie unwinds with what seems to be a tale of two families: the black family and the white Lodge family. But except for the boys who become friends, the two families never cross paths. As unruly crowds gather in front of the Meyers’ house, a robbery and murder occurs in the Lodge home. The perps are white, and one of them is scary mean (Glenn Fleshler). They chloroform the entire family, holding the cloth on Rose’s face for a long time. She dies, leaving a grieving husband, Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) and Nicky.
            Aunt Maggie steps into the role of caretaker for the family, only she quickly transitions into mean Auntie, all the while speaking in her soft, amenable voice. Moore’s acting is brilliant. She comes across as compliant, even when she’s grinding up lye for a white bread sandwich. I’m not gonna tell you who the intended victim is . . . that’s one of the surprises.
            The murders in the Lodge home multiply while the police fight off the angry white mob at the Meyers home. We see evil played out on two stages: Unthinking mob violence on one and Coen Brothers inspired psychopathology on another. The black family doesn’t fight back or seek to incite confrontation. The white family tries to solve its problems with more murders.

            In the end we’re left with the innocence of children, who guilelessly reach out to each other again.


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