A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Suburbicon is a dark, violent comedy about -- more or less -- the evils that can spring up in an all-white community. Directed by George Clooney, who re-purposed a screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen, the movie delivers a portrait of racism that is blunt and brutal. As are several of the weapons used: Many characters die, and there's stabbing, fighting, bashing with blunt objects, choking, a car crash, an explosion, and poisoning. A child is in danger in several scenes (he screams and cries), a character is strangled, and women and children are chloroformed. Blood stains are shown. A house is vandalized, and a car is set on fire. Language is strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word," "a--hole," and more. A child stumbles upon a sexual situation: A man is paddling a woman's behind, and both have their pants down (no sensitive body parts are shown). There's some social and/or background drinking.
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What's the story?
In SUBURBICON, it's the 1950s, and Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) lives with his family in an all-white suburban neighborhood. Then the friendly African-American Mayers family moves in nearby, and Gardner's son Nicky (Noah Jupe) befriends their son, Andy (Tony Espinosa). Meanwhile, two men (Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell) break into the Lodges' house and use chloroform to subdue his wife, the wheelchair-bound Rose (Julianne Moore); her twin sister, Margaret (also Moore); and Nicky. Clues quickly indicate that Gardner and Margaret have hired the thugs themselves to knock off Rose, and when an insurance claims inspector (Oscar Isaac) arrives, things escalate. Meanwhile, the white neighbors have begun to terrorize the Mayers family, making noise, throwing things, and, finally, vandalizing their home. Can order be restored to Suburbicon?
Is it any good?
Resurrecting an old Coen brothers script, this would-be dark comedy is a depressing misfire, a baffling, awkward combination of nasty thrills and grim, ham-fisted social commentary. The only redeeming value in Suburbicon, which was directed by George Clooney, is its depiction of racism as vulgar and ugly; it's far blunter in this respect than more nuanced movies like Marshall or Selma. On the other hand, the fact that the African-American characters are the only good people in the movie (aside from white youth Nicky) is pretty obvious and not very useful.
As for the murder storyline, it's distasteful, focusing on sociopathic characters with no moral center. The adults' lack of love and protection for the young boy is shocking, almost sickening. There's simply no way to care about these characters or their outcome. The movie's two story threads tentatively, awkwardly meet up at the end, but with no payoff. Clooney has directed duds before (Leatherheads, The Monuments Men), but nothing this head-scratchingly bad. Perhaps that Coen brothers screenplay -- which was re-written by Clooney and Grant Heslov -- should have stayed abandoned.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does the movie present racism? How does it compare to how other movies and TV shows have tackled this issue?
How is sex depicted in this movie? Does it appear to be based on love and trust? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
What is a dark comedy? How does this movie fit that description?
For kids who love the Coen Brothers
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