George Clooney, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac star in "Suburbicon," a movie directed by but not starring George Clooney. Based on a old script by Joel and Ethan Coen, the movie is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD).
The DNA of the Coen Brothers script is obvious. The movie's main plot features an insurance scam gone wrong and has the same black comic elements that the filmmakers explored in their remake of "The Ladykillers" and "Burn After Reading."
Weirdly, Clooney and his writing and producing partner Grant Heslov found the 1957 documentary called "Crisis in Levittown" about the racism that exploded when a black middle class family named Myers moved to an all-white Pennsylvania suburb.
So: Coen Brothers dark comedy + based-on-a-true-story social justice drama. It's a baffling choice and it just doesn't work.
What does work is the casting and the parts of the movie that are obviously written by the Coens. Plus Clooney and Heslov found a remarkably well-preserved 1950s suburb in California and let the production designers run wild. It's getting harder and harder to find all the objects you need to fake mid-century America and "Suburbicon" may be one of the last movies that's able to get so many details right.
It's just that the attempts at serious stuff keep intruding on what's unavoidably a ridiculous crime story about people who are much dumber than they realize.
If you're a big fan of Joel and Ethan Coen, you probably want to see this movie to complete the collection. If you're a big Matt Damon fan, you might be confused by this one.