Shark Patrol Redux 0002: "Suburbicon"
(Matt Damon as Gardner Lodge.)
Discovering this film I felt as though it must have been a sleeper that I’d somehow missed. After all, movies starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, directed by George Clooney who shared co-writing credits with the Coen Brothers (and Grant Heslov) don’t normally fly below the radar.
A little research revealed that “Suburbicon” had been a 2017 box office bomb, earning $11M after costing $25M to make. While it may not have been as flashy or action-packed as some of the star and director’s previous vehicles I found it to be a likable little twisting and turning character study. In many ways it made me think of “Pleasantville,” the Tobey Maguire-Reese Witherspoon movie focused on bucolic 1950’s suburbia if a companion feature had revealed that community’s sinister underbelly. In a weird coincidental twist, “Pleasantville” also failed to break even at the box office despite its ensuing cult status. Maybe “Happy Days” was all the ’50’s nostalgia anyone was looking for.
Damon plays Gardner Lodge, a seemingly average Joe living in the time period’s precursor to a gated community, an idyllic bastion of white middle-class comfort. The death of his crippled wife during a break in, and the subsequent replacement in her role as caregiver to their young son being assumed by his wife's twin sister (both roles played by Moore) set an early tone of tension. The arrival of an African-American family next door reveals the dark bigotry of this idealized community and coincides with a more personalized darkness emerging from Gardner Lodge.
Flashes of noir nestled alongside a decidedly dark comedic sensibility bring things to a conclusion that while not shocking raises enough eyebrows for an enjoyable hour and 45 minutes. Coen Brothers devotees should keep an eye out for Oscar Issac, the leading character in their well-received 2013 effort, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Issac steals his two scenes as insurance agent, “Bud Cooper.”
(Oscar Issac as Bud Cooper.)