The career of George Clooney as director is an interesting case to be sure. This, of course, isn’t to be confused with the career of George Clooney, the actor, which is another subject altogether. Clooney’s work behind the camera began nicely in the early 2000s with his TV movie remake of the 1964 nail biter Fail Safe, and transitioned smoothly with his impressive 2005 feature film Good Night and Good Luck. And then a strange thing happened. With each successive effort, the quality so evident in the beginning began to slip, which may be the first time a director’s work worsened with each new film.
And now we have what is possibly the nadir of Clooney’s career behind the camera, Suburbicon, a film that can match his incredibly dull 2014 effort, The Monuments Men, toe to toe in terms of its lack of quality. And though I openly admit to disliking that previous film a bit more than this one the difference would be akin to splitting atomic particles. Both are bad in a way that’s quite astonishing considering what came before.
Suburbicon is a project with a bit of tortured history to begin with considering it sprang to life in 1986 as a script written by the Coen Brothers and quickly tossed aside in favor of the brothers next project, Raising Arizona. Clooney was apparently attached at one time and legend has it that he couldn’t get the project out of his mind and was hell bent on turning it into a film. Unfortunately he seems to have forgotten the old adage that a man needs to know his limitations, said limitations being that Clooney simply doesn’t have the ability to pull all of the film’s elements together in a way that the Coen Brothers would have done. Then again maybe there’s a reason the Coens abandoned ship to begin with.
As it stands Suburbicon is a genuinely uneasy blend of many disparate elements. It’s part film noir, part social satire and none of its parts ever congeal in a way that feels natural with the mixing of different genres constantly at odds with one another. Longtime collaborator and Clooney pal Matt Damon stars as Gardner Lodge. The setting is 1959 and Lodge finds his tranquil existence shattered after a home invasion which equally unnerves his son (Noah Jupe), his wife and sister in law (the latter two both played by Julianne Moore). More plot complications ensue when a black family moves into the neighborhood, which allows Clooney to at least get in a few anti racist jabs.
The period detail and technical details are generally good here but certainly not enough to save this ill advised endeavor. Hopefully Clooney will duly note his limitations, if and when, he steps behind the camera after this debacle.
Photo: Matt Damon in Suburbicon
Suburbicon is playing in Hickory (at press time) and Charlotte.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.