George Clooney's Suburbicon deemed sub-par

Julianne Moore as Margaret and Matt Damon as Gardner Lodge in Suburbicon

SUBURBICON (15, 104 mins) Comedy/Thriller/Romance.
Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Oscar Isaac, Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell, Gary Basarba, Jack Conley.
Director: George Clooney.

Rating: 5/10

Released: November 24

A BUNGLED home invasion in a pristine, picket-fenced 1950s American community provides the catalyst for George Clooney's darkly comic crime caper.

Based on a script by Oscar-winning siblings Joel and Ethan Coen, which has been gathering dust on a shelf for more than 30 years and arguably should have stayed there, Suburbicon addresses timely issues of racial politics and family disunity without drawing blood or compelling conclusions.

The two narrative strands of Clooney's film – bigotry and deceit – are awkwardly woven together into a tableau that can't decide whether it wants to satirise society or pass swingeing commentary on the thinly veiled ugliness behind the American dream.

As a thriller, the film telegraphs its cold-blooded intentions so far in advance, the only mystery is how the police, led by officer Hightower (Jack Conley), are blind to the skulduggery in a post-war paradise of manicured lawns, voluminous skirts and dutiful housewives.

Behind the camera, Clooney fails to energise key sequences but he does elicit wry laughter with quirky details like Matt Damon's bloodied and bruised husband furiously peddling away from a flame-scorched crime scene on a child's bicycle.

The year is 1957 and family man Gardner Lodge (Damon), his wife Rose (Julianne Moore) and their son Nicky (Noah Jupe) are among 60,000 all-white residents of the picture perfect enclave of Suburbicon.

During a visit by Rose's twin sister Margaret (Moore again), the family is surprised by two brutish intruders, Ira Sloan (Glenn Fleshler) and his sidekick Louis (Alex Hassell).

"There are men in the house. They are going to take what they want and leave," Gardner coolly explains to his terrified boy.

Alas, Rose dies from inhaling too much chloroform and the Lodge clan huddles together in a time of grief, rejecting help from Rose's concerned brother Mitch (Gary Basarba).

Margaret becomes a surrogate mother to Nicky and dyes her hair blonde to spookily resemble her late sibling.

Soon after, life insurance claims investigator Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac) arrives at the front door, armed with uncomfortable questions about the fortuitous timing of Rose's demise.

Gardner's calm facade warps and he takes a firm hand with Nicky: "This is a family matter and I don't want you talking to Uncle Mitch about it!"

Meanwhile, the streets of Suburbicon are filled with rage and dissent at the arrival of an African American family in the house next to the Lodges.

Suburbicon is a predictable tale of crime and punishment, which oozes period style but lacks suspense and a satisfying pay-off.

The fingerprints of the Coen brothers are unmistakably all over the script, which fails to test the mettle of an award-winning cast.

However, Jupe is compelling as the one of the few innocents, embroiled in the misfiring mayhem.

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