Plenty of black comedies have the capacity to shock, enthral and entertain all at the same time. While Suburbicon certainly has its moments led by a stellar cast featuring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac, this title from George Clooney has be criticized for lacking self awareness amid a highly charged racial backdrop.
The reviews have not been kind to leave a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 26%. To make matters worse for Clooney and Paramount Pictures, the $25m picture has flopped to make just $1.1m at the box office.
A White Privilege Movie About White Privilege
Matt Goldberg at Collider issued a C- rating, intimating that it is a little too smug for its own good.
"Clooney has basically made a feature-length tweet. While most of us have to confine our opinions on America to social media, a blog post, the comments section, or (if you’re feeling old fashioned) a letter to the editor, George Clooney is a wealthy, famous, powerful movie star, so his thoughts get to be a major motion picture starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore. While I agree with Clooney—that white America is throwing a s*** fit over moving from a majority to a minority, and they’re taking out their anger on minorities while ignoring their own culpability—it didn’t require a feature film to make this observation and share it with the world, especially when the statement talks over the movie’s black characters."
The Guardian's Guy Lodge points out that Joel and Ethan Cohen developed the script in 1986 but thought better about adapting it. For the critic, that raised a red flag.
"A number of bloodied dead bodies pile up in the course of George Clooney’s new film Suburbicon, but they’re not the primary source of the sour smell emanating from this manic, distracted and, let it be said, notably white black comedy," he writes. "Clooney is, of course, free to make the films he wants to make, but it’s hard not to see that he’s having his vanilla cake and eating it: Suburbicon may pose as a knowing satire of white privilege, but its very production is enabled and characterised by that very phenomenon."
Tone is Off as Clooney Opts For Shock and Awe
Josh Lasser argues that the film touches the surface of deep racial issues in suburban America, but doesn't venture far enough at IGN.
"In its best moments, Suburbicon is the dark, truly funny examination of 1950s suburbia it wants to be. These moments, however, are all too rare and more often than not the story is just a flat Film Noir tale purporting to expose the evil that lurks all around us. There are perplexing elements throughout that don't quite work, including some with the child at the film's center. Beyond that, Suburbicon offers a cursory depiction of racism but never delves as deeply into it as it should, making it another missed opportunity."
Giving 2.5/4 stars for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers was left somewhat disappointed by a "scattershot satire" that attempted to be bold, but was not self aware of its own flaws.
"Where the film goes wrong is its grafting on a subplot about racism that, however admirable, gives the film a hectoring tone that wreaks havoc with its blistering comic thrust," he says. "Clooney is too talented and committed a filmmaker not to get in his licks. But with Suburbicon, he's made a movie that is tonally at war with itself."
Suburbicon is open in theaters now across the US.