Suburbicon is a film consisting of two plots. More like a plot and a subplot. These two exist in the same world, but barely ever intersect. In fact, one could make the case that they aren’t even necessary for each other’s survival. Although, they serve a subtle symbiotic purpose, however contrived it may seem.
The subplot happens first. We arrive in a utopian town in the 1950s, called Suburbicon. News gets around that a black family has moved into the community, and the people there begin protesting. The white people are scared that their “perfect” little town will now become disturbed by the presence of black people.
Across the street from the black family is where our main plot begins. A home invasion kills a woman (Julianne Moore), and nearly kills her husband (Matt Damon), son (Noah Jupe), and twin sister (also Julianne Moore). We’re not sure why it’s happening, but we know we’re about to find out.
There seems to be a lot going on, but the film carefully picks out what’s important in order to drive the plot and build tension. Careful sense is made out of all the chaos.
Amidst a slew of films that attempt to create commentary on racial issues by shoving it in your face, this one tries to keep it in the background. However, it’s not all that subliminal.
Many viewers will no doubt feel a sense of pride for figuring out what statements this film is trying to make. But the truth is, it’s pretty on-the-nose and not hard to analyze properly.
The events with the black family and the protesters outside their house serve no real purpose other than to show irony of ignorant racists becoming the actual source of all the disruptions in their peaceful lives. The crazy people are actually the white Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, and the white townsfolk are violently protesting the normal people who happen to be black. The white people are really the ones we should hate; they’re really the ones causing all the problems–we get it.
If you were previously unaware that racism exists–especially in the 1950s–then this film is for you. Except this film takes that trope to new heights. No new ground is covered in this area, and it isn’t like it’s a true story that needs to be told. At times it seems like the filmmakers (George Clooney, the Coen Brothers, et al) are merely trying to pass off this moral that all white people are bigots.
I probably shouldn’t like this movie, but I do and I can’t quite figure it out. Maybe I just like seeing Matt Damon play a terrible person. Maybe the two likable people in the whole film are actually worth all the trouble. The truth is, it contains a pretty cool murder mystery and I’m a sucker for utopian settings. Suburbicon does a lot of things wrong, but it’s actually still very entertaining as a whole.