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TIFF Review: Suburbicon – “Serviceable but nothing remarkable”

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A young boy uncovers a conspiracy surrounding the death of his mother and develops a friendship with the son of an unwanted African American family in a 1950s suburban white community.

Awakend from a deep sleep by his father (Matt Damon), Nicki Lodge (Noah Jupe) is taken downstairs to the kitchen where two mysterious men hold his family which includes his wheelchair-bound mother (Julianna Moore) and her twin sister (Julianna Moore) hostage; after being knocked out by chloroform he wakes up to discover that his mother is dead.  At the bequest of his aunt, an initially reluctant Nicki approaches the African American boy next door to play baseball and what develops is a biracial friendship. Racial tensions run high in the Caucasian neighbourhood and the body count rises as the truth slowly comes out surrounding murder of the invalid matriarch.

All the absurdity and carnage is a trademark of the crime noir-loving Coen Brothers who wrote the original screenplay which was subsequently rewritten by George Clooney and Grant Heslov.  That’s where the major problem comes into play as it is easy to distinguish the revisions as the black family in the white neighbourhood comes across as an entirely separate storyline with the only reason to exist is for the closing shot.  The Coens were on a better track getting inspiration from a Billy Wilder classic and setting the stage for what became one of their most acclaimed movies and resulted in a spouse winning an Oscar.

There is some creative inspiration such as the opening title sequence framed as a pamphlet promoting the Suburbicon housing development which cleverly delivers exposition and incorporates water coloured pictures that come to life.  Stars of the cast are Noah Jupe and Oscar Isaac.  Jupe is able to display a sense of bewilderment and endearment while Isaac plays his role to the hilt for great dramatic and comedic effect. The plot is somewhat predictable and Matt Damon and Julianne Moore do serviceable but nothing remarkable with their performances.  The only element that seems to remember that the movie is suppose to be a satire is the music which adds some lightness to the prevailing darkness.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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