George Clooney‘s Suburbicon (Paramount, 10.27) is no Fargo. But it should have resembled Joel and Ethan Coen‘s 1996 classic at least somewhat. The original Suburbicon script, written by the Coens in ’86 and set in the mid ’50s, was their first stab at a Fargo-like middle class crime noir. Nine or ten years later the Coens went back to the same James M.Cain well and created Fargo, and the rest is history.
In Suburbicon, Clooney and producer and co-screenwriter Grant Heslov have reworked things, keeping the Fargo noir stuff but also, it seems, diluting or ignoring that sardonic deadpan wit that we all associate with the Coens, and deciding to paint the whole thing with a broad, bloody brush.
When it comes to tales about greed, murder and doomed deception, there’s nothing duller than watching a series of unsympathetic, unwitting characters (including the two leads, played by Matt Damon and Julianne Moore) play their cards like boobs and then die for their trouble. There’s just no caring for any of them.
Most significantly, Clooney and Heslov have added a side-plot about how Eisenhower-era white suburbanites were racist and venal to the core, and how things really aren’t much different today.
The Suburbicon victims are the just-arrived Meyer clan (Karimah Westbrook, Leith M. Burke, Tony Espinosa), and from the moment they move into their new, ranch-style home in a same-titled fictitious hamlet (i.e., an idyllic real-estate development right out of Martin Ritt‘s No Down Payment) their cappuccino skin shade incites ugly pushback from just about everyone. But the situation doesn’t develop or progress in any way. The Meyers keep absorbing the ugly, and that’s pretty much it.
Remember how those small-town citizens greeted the arrival of Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles? Nearly the same broad-as-fuck tone prevails here. There isn’t a single non-racist white adult in Suburbicon. With the exception of Noah Jupe‘s Danny, who’s about ten, and the Meyers clan everyone in Clooney’s film has horns, hooved feet and a tail.