Joel and Ethan Cohen wrote the screenplay for Suburbicon. Once I heard that, I knew I was in for seeing something strange on the big screen. Their most famous film is Fargo, Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay as well as Best Actress for Frances McDormand. The Cohen brothers always have a moral to their stories, and it is usually that people are blinded by money and do all sorts of dastardly deeds just to get more money.
This film has an added message in that the money leads to murder and the disintegration of society. While true evil lurks in one of the white homes in Suburbicon, that of Gardner Lodge and his family, a black family has moved in just on the other side of the fence from them. The white residents of this 1959 suburb that could exist anywhere in America focus on the dangers of a black family moving into their neighborhood, while the Lodge family plays out a drama of deceit, murder, fraud and adultery.
The law-abiding family in back of the Lodge’s attempt to ignore the threats to their home and family and the nightly chaos from the stupid white racists who live in the community. Stereotyped to the extreme by the white residents, the black family never gives away their dignity, and endures.
So the message I got from this film was: wake up! While evil exists right next door to you, stupid fearful racists profile and make life miserable for law-abiding citizens who just happen to be a different skin color.
Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) lives with his wife Rose (Julianne Moore) and his son Nicky (Noah Jupe). Rose’s sister Margaret is also in the home and she is also played by Julianne Moore. Rose is wheelchair bound. One late night, two men enter their home, ostensibly to rob them, and proceed to put them all under, probably with chloroform, and give Rose too much of it, killing her in the process.
With Rose gone, Margaret stays on to take care of Nicky. The action intensifies as Nicky becomes suspicious about the circumstances of his mother’s death. An insurance investigator, Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac), comes sniffing around in an attempt to see if Gardner’s insurance claim is fraudulent in any way, and the two thugs continue to terrorize Gardner.
Meanwhile, the attacks on the black family have not let up. The contrast between the two situations is intensely disturbing. The film is rated R for violence, language and some sexuality.
I can see why some people would not like this film. At first glance, it appears that there are two separate stories going on in Suburbicon, but because the two families exist side by side, the pointed contrast between the two come out strongly.
If you can stomach some blood, I recommend the film. It reminded me of Fargo actually, just in another setting and with the racial message thrown in. It’s not a great movie, but makes its point clearly.