I'd rather not know what might exist in the minds of the franchise-happy movie patrons who keep the Hollywood studios alive, well and obscenely profitable these days and I guess that I shouldn't expect much from contemporary critics either, but it baffles me when a film is casually dismissed simply because it's not what people expected or wanted it to be.
Prior to its release, the impression was that "Suburbicon" would be a fictionalized account, by way of the Coen Brothers, of the disappointing, shameful behavior of white people when a black family moved into Levittown, Pa. in 1957. It wasn't exactly America's greatest moment.
The film is less about the plight of the tormented black family who moves into a blindingly white suburban community in the 1950s, than about the general awfulness of white people who have not changed since the '50s. Clooney is nothing if not brave to make a film in which, except for its little pre-teen hero, is devoid of a single Caucasian who is decent or likable.
The black family in "Suburbicon" - The Mayers - remain on the periphery throughout the film, a plot point that has outraged some critics. They are there simply to be bystanders to the shameful behavior of the white families who surround them and resent them. And especially problematic for reviewers is the fact that the film's leading white family - The Lodges - has barely noticed or is even aware that a black family has moved in.
In a daring style of storytelling, Clooney makes no effort to connect the two storylines, keeping The Lodges apart from the Mayers family. Only their children - Tony Espinosa as Andy Mayers and the remarkable Noah Jupe as Nicky Lodge - have any meaningful, humane contact in the film.
Clooney handily guides his film through a collection of amusing Hitchcockian twists and turns, many jaw-droppingly inappropriate and unapologetic, and locates humor (of the jet-black variety) that the politically correct might find insensitive and probably just plain gross.
Insensitive? Gross? For me, it's simply some much-needed sarcasm.
Jupe is placed regularly in unsettling situations - very incorrect - but the young actor is almost preternaturally game in a performance that defines the fractured message of the film. Damon, always flawless, bravely abandons himself in a role and performance unlikely to win him any awards but should. And Julianne Moore is simply a hoot as twin sisters.
As far as her role(s) in the film, I'll leave it at that.
There are invaluable contributions here by cinematographer Robert Elswit, editor Stephen Mirrione, costume designer Jenny Eagan, production designer James D. Bissell, set decorator Jan Pascale and particularly Alexandre Desplat, who has composed a diverse, wall-to-wall music score that, artfully and surprisingly, never seems the least bit intrusive.
From where I sit, Paramount has had a banner year with radical cinema, as evidence by Darren Aronofsky's "mother!" and now "Suburbicon," brash films branded as "audience unfriendly" (for me, not entirely a bad thing). And, much like "mother!," Clooney's film goes through something akin to a hysterical nervous breakdown as it speeds towards its conclusion. Coming up from Paramount is Alenxander Payne's "Downsizing" (also with Damon) and, despite the cheery trailer, I'm hopeful that it also has a dark side.
And that it's similarly inappropriate (there's that word again) and sarcastic - "qualities" that we desperately need more than ever now.