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Movie Review

Ah, Suburbicon.

This lovely little community was founded in 1947 to be the ideal representation of the American Dream. The perfect grass lawns are all mown, the perfect houses all bright and colorful, the perfect neighbors are all smiling and caring as they greet you while walking along those perfect sun-washed sidewalks.

This is a town with happy churches, bustling schools, ball teams, bowling leagues, and of course, all the best shopping centers where the lady of the house can stretch her shapely legs. It's perfect.

OK, there are a few little issues to make note of.

It seems that the first black family, the Mayers, recently moved into town. And there was a bit of unease that rippled through this beautiful burg about that. I mean, everyone in Suburbicon believes in diversity: There are people living here that hail from places as far and wide as New York City to Maben, Miss., after all. But a colored family? Here? In their town? That's … unnatural, isn't it?

On the other hand, there are other unnatural things going on under the surface in Suburbicon, too. Just next door to the Mayer's house lives Gardner Lodge and his family. And who knows what's really going on behind their closed doors and curtains.

Gardner's wife, Rose, was killed by robbers, don't you know. (Nothing like that ever happened before those Mayers moved in.) And now the Lodge boy, Nicky, is left motherless. Not motherless exactly, I suppose, since Rose's twin sister, Maggie, moved in to stay with them full time. And since Maggie is an identical twin and such an openly loving individual, why, it's almost like Rose never passed away. Right?

Then there are also those other strange little things going on in the Lodge home—things involving insurance money and mob-like blackmailers and brutish thugs and … Well, none of that is really all that important. Just a few family issues that everyone in town is sure the Lodges will work out.

That Mayer family, though, now that's a problem.

[Note: Spoilers are contained in the following sections.]

Positive Elements

The Mayers are good people and seemingly good parents who simply want to have a happy home (though, the film doesn't really tell us much about them, even though they're at the center of much of the town's controversy). They stand quietly by as the rest of the community goes somewhat insane. After the turmoil, a few white individuals help this black family clean up their property. Nicky and the Mayer's son, Andy, become good friends.

The only other morally solid individual in Nicky's life is his Uncle Mitch. "Who loves ya like a son?" Mitch asks the boy on a couple occasions as he worries over his well-being. Ultimately Mitch is the only one to step up and put everything on the line to protect Nicky.

Spiritual Content

Several people talk to Nicky about his mother's death. Someone asks if she's "gone to heaven," and another says she's "with Jesus now." Aunt Maggie tells Nicky about her St. Patrick medallion. And she gets the boy to pray to the Saint for his mom. Someone opines that Episcopalians are "full of s---."

A policeman uses a crude term for blacks that he says is a "Jewish" slang word. Mitch talks to an Episcopalian priest about family issues, but the minister isn't sure how to help. "Go home, Mitch. And God bless you," he tells Mitch.

Sexual Content

It becomes obvious that Gardner and Nicky's aunt Maggie have been having an affair for some time. Nicky sees his dad sneaking into Maggie's room at night. While clothed, she rolls on top of Gardner and kisses him. Nicky also catches them in the midst of some sex play with ping-pong paddles in the basement. (We see them both pressed up against each other and bent over a table while apparently fully dressed, and then catch a glimpse of their bare legs with their undergarments around their ankles).

Nicky shown in a bathtub with his knees pulled up to his chest.

Violent Content

Early on, two thugs intentionally kill Rose with a chloroform-soaked rag. They also manhandle other family members and tie them up with rope. Gardner is beaten by one of them, repeatedly pounded in the face and left bloodied. He goes through most of the film with his face bruised and his nose broken.

A man gasps and chokes after being fed coffee laced with lye. Gardner strikes the man with a fireplace poker, driving the pointed weapon into the man's eye (seen from a distance). A man driving a VW Beetle is struck by a speeding vehicle, leaving him incredibly bloodied and hanging out of the crushed car. Then the car's gas tank explodes in a huge eruption.

Another thug strangles Maggie to death and lunges after Nicky with a large kitchen knife. Nick escapes when his Uncle Mitch fights the thug off (off-camera), leaving them both gushing blood and mortally wounded. As the deaths and tensions mount, Gardner eventually threatens his own son with a graphically imagined bloody death. The boy weeps and shakes in fear. Someone else dies after eating food laced with ground-up prescription meds.

At the Mayers' house, things slowly progress over several nights from white crowds threatening and harassing the black family to a full out over-the-top riot. Windows are smashed; a car is demolished and firebombed; and police forces barely restrain the huge crazed mob from lynching the frightened family.

Crude or Profane Language

More than 15 f-words and a handful of s-words join several uses each of "d--n," "h---" and "a--." God's and Jesus' names are misused four or five times (God is combined with "d--n" on two of those). Crude references are made to male genitals.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Violent robbers force Gardner to serve them drinks. We also see Gardner imbibe on several occasions, too. Maggie's brother, Mitch, swigs liquor from a flask.

The aforementioned thieves tie and render the Lodge family unconscious with chloroform. We see several people smoke in the background of various scenes. One character crushes prescription pills and mixes the powder with food in an attempt to murder someone else. That person also puts lye in someone's coffee.

Other Negative Elements

White residents of Suburbicon gather to voice their anger about the Mayers moving in. "We demand our civil rights to live where we want and with who we want," they demand. After that the communal unrest grows as night by night crowds gather to scream and make raucous noise around the black family's home in an effort to drive them away. A white supermarket owner also demands that Mrs. Mayer pay exorbitant prices for food staples.

We discover that Gardner has secretly plotted with hitmen to kill his wife and make it look like a robbery for an insurance scam. Another person wants to blackmail Gardner for the same money.

Conclusion

It's been said that the script for this film was written some years ago by sibling directors Joel and Ethan Coen, then tossed into a drawer to await the day someone might come along and give it life on screen. That someone was actor and director George Clooney.

It's also been noted that director Clooney believed the original absurdist premise of this film—about the anger, angst and suburban rot and decay that bubbles just beneath the surface of the American Dream—needed a little punching up. So, he added another storyline that was designed to inject an edgy parallel commentary on America's race issues.

It was all intended to be thoughtful and clever in a dry, bloody, screwball comedy sort of way. And at times you sense the offbeat, Coenesque dark farce that this film might have become.

But it never really makes it there. Instead we get an altogether bad film: two separately ugly and uncomfortable-to-watch storylines propped next to each other with an inept ham-fistedness.

Suburbicon's characters ring quirky and true. The '50s costumes and scenery look authentic. But then the whole shebang nosedives into something luridly witless, foul and bloody. It's like biting down on broken glass and rusty nails in your apple pie-ala-mode.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Matt Damon as Gardner Lodge; Julianne Moore as Rose/Margaret; Karimah Westbrook as Mrs. Mayers; Oscar Isaac as Bud Cooper; Noah Jupe as Nicky; Tony Espinosa as Andy Mayers; Gary Basaraba as Mitch

Director

George Clooney ( )

Distributor

Paramount Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

October 27, 2017

On Video

February 6, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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