Suburbicon wants you to think it’s another Coen Brothers classic. Written by the redoubtable pair, Grant Heslov, George Clooney and directed by the latter, it may look and feel like their golden era but lands far off the mark.
Opening with an idyllic 50’s-esque infomercial on the joys of the titular domicile, Suburbicon immediately suggests it will tackle race relations in modern America through the eyes of beleaguered neighbours, mere yards away from the film’s mainstays Julianne Moore and Matt Damon, the former here playing identical twins.
It is not uncommon for the Coens to let a story unravel against a larger social backdrop or upheaval ala Clooney’s own O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the issue here being that this drama plays a passingly consequential role to the main action, a very different story altogether. Suggesting a thematic relationship between its dual strands even if the stories are of bare actual or practical relevance to each other, their events unfolding largely independently, the treatment of the initial tale as a general aside or with fleeting introspection does little justice to it’s implications or how it is apparently supposed to relate to the film’s central figures.
The main, fairly predictable story, sporting stronger shades of Fargo than any of the Coen’s latest fare, is entertaining if no way near as compelling as what is happening next door. While the foibles and darkly comic touches prevalent in the likes of A Serious Man are abundant in the trailers and promotional material, there isn’t nearly enough of the trademark shtick evident throughout to sustain any sense of momentum or endearment that better characterised the pair’s earlier works.
Oscar Isaac, by contrast, is an absolute delight for every moment he’s on screen, killing it in a regretfully short role that easily merits a standalone film. Coen Brothers fans, this author among them, would gladly queue up to watch it, absent the inclusions that rendered Suburbicon a comparably lacklustre effort.
Suburbicon is in cinemas now