Here is a movie with great pedigree -- this isn't the first rodeo for anyone involved. George Clooney long ago proved himself a more than capable director; Joel and Ethan Coen have been writing solid scripts for ages. Bring them all together as a team, and how could Suburbicon not be great? Well, hey -- who is this fourth member of the script writing team, Grant Heslov? Maybe he was the one who ruined it! Well, except he wrote three of Clooney's previous films.
Who knows what derailed Suburbicon? Something did. This is a film that kind of has its heart in the right place, within the context of intended satire, except the end result is a muddled mess, most of which is almost shockingly dull.
Although I would actively recommend avoiding this film, I will still avoid straightforward spoilers. What I will say is that the movie you wind up seeing is something far different from what the trailers suggest it will be. It also makes liberal use of a subplot involving a black family moving into an otherwise all-white 1950s community, which the trailer hardly even hints at. That may be because this subplot somehow manages to be frustratingly vague and heavy-handed at the same time. Not every movie has to have something to say, but this movie clearly feels it does, and yet it's impossible to figure out exactly what it's saying.
The central characters make up a single family, headed by the usually wonderful -- or at least capable -- actors Matt Damon and Julianne Moore. Moore even plays both the parts of the mother and the mother's sister. No one ever says whether they're supposed to be identical twins. One of the is blonde and the other is brunette.
The plot structure is itself worthy of the Coen Brothers' body of work, with some delightfully dark turns. The problem is how long it takes to get there, the story plodding along with a score Alexandre Desplat so weirdly old-school mellow, given the subject matter, it's liable to make you drowsy.
In the meantime, the community's vitriolic response to the back family moving in serves as a subplot never directly connected to the main story, but occasionally providing distraction and cover for the evidently unrelated events happening in the house where the Lodges reside. There's a break-in; the family is tied up to chairs; consequences result in a cloud of suspicious circumstances. Their young son, Nicky (Noah Jupe, who is pretty great), befriends the black boy his age who lives next door.
Suburbicon pointedly focuses on this black family while also giving them short shrift. The woman playing the mother (Karimah Westbrook) gets a few lines, as we see her being treated with severe passive-aggression at the local grocery store. I couldn't even tell you who plays her husband, because the man literally gets zero lines in the film. Did he have any lines in the shooting script, I wonder? I hope so; then at least he got paid more than he would as a Featured Extra, which is all he is in the final cut. And if this family is so clearly supposed to be vital to the story, presenting them in this way is both pointless and counter-productive. The young black boy, played by Tony Espinosa, gets a few lines, at least.
All this is to say, Suburbicon operates on a series of intended connections that miss their marks completely. It's possible the trailer was cut in such a misleading way because not even the marketers themselves could figure out how to say what this movie is really about. People die; the couple at the center of the main story become heavily involved; most of the characters turn out to be different people from who you thought them to be at the beginning. By the time that becomes clear, however, you've moved far past caring.