Domestic betrayal … Julianne Moore as Margaret and Matt Damon as Gardner in Suburbicon. Photograph: Hilary Bronwyn Gay/Paramount Pictures
For his latest directorial outing, George Clooney has given us a macabre comedy noir: watchable, lively, intricately designed, but with exotic plot contrivances and parallel storylines that don’t fully gel. Clooney and longtime producing partner Grant Heslov have rewritten an unproduced script by the Coen brothers, set in a satirically picture-perfect 1950s American suburb. Like the manicured locations of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet or Todd Haynes’s Far from Heaven, this is a place where ugly realities hunch behind the picket fence and the Colgate smiles: racism, deceit, murder.
The Coens’ original screenplay was about a intimately horrible act of violence and domestic betrayal that goes farcically wrong. Clooney and Heslov have added a separate strand, making this drama work a double shift, attacking America’s postwar prejudice. It takes as its starting point the real-life case of the black family who tried moving to Levittown, the notorious whites-only development established by real-estate mogul William Levitt – praised only this summer in a rambling speech by President Donald J Trump to a baffled audience of boy scouts (and I have to admit that the bizarre juxtaposition of subject matter and audience fits rather well with this film).
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