Suburbicon Blu-ray Review

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George Clooney’s Folly

The dark satire of Suburbicon cuts through America’s Donna Reed Show, post-WWII kindness. These perfect little towns, living in harmony where nothing goes wrong. In Suburbicon though, when a black family, the Mayers, moves in, the breakdown begins.

It’s partially based on a true story. Sbuburbicon even uses real world clips of artificially gentle white neighbors espousing their blatant racism and bigotry. That’s painful to watch, more so knowing its true.

But that’s not the satire. That concerns Matt Damon, Suburbicon resident, father, and loving husband. He wants his wife dead so he can run away with her twin sister (Julianne Moore in a double role). While Sububicon’s white bigots enlarge their attempts to push out the freshly settled black family, Damon’s sinister plot goes into effect. The suggestion is one of racial naivety, assuming superiority, all the while your own commits a series of heinous acts.

In a sense, that’s amusing, almost charming in a morbid way. The Damon plot spirals, adding to the body count as cinema’s wayward murders tend to. Hitchcock might have loved this. In the hands of director George Clooney (from a Coen Brothers script), Suburbicon’s descent into mayhem is ponderous and stilted. There’s a listlessness where tension belongs, and repetition where character needs to be.

… from publicly progressive voices like Damon and Clooney, it’s a near catastrophe

Suburbicon spends ages on Damon’s story. He hired some goons to off his handicapped wife. That doesn’t go well. Meanwhile, the tormented Mayers turn into ancillary players. Other than their Civil Rights-era passive defiance, they never become characters. Damon never interacts with them. The script turns the Mayers into story pawns, derailing intent, and in a sense, becoming what the parody is intended to be.

By its climax, Suburbicon seems like a reverse Get Out, which doesn’t lend this film any specialty. It’s all together normal in the industry, and from publicly progressive voices like Damon and Clooney, a near catastrophe.

Pieces of something greater sit within. Alexandre Desplat’s score is masterful, pokey and fetching at first, then increasingly terse. Damon’s performance and descent into madness simmers before the inevitable boiling point. Scenes of the Mayer family’s abuse read all too authentic, if not without purpose. Their use in the greater context is the fall off.

It takes time for Suburbicon to slip. The opening scenes, turning pages of a Suburbicon welcome manual, tout great diversity. Then, all white families tell of the states they came from. Hammer meets nail in a cringe-inducing, ever casual example of anti-segregation belief systems. What begins to form is a racial comedy, and then race turns secondary. A total misstep.

Video

Shadows harbor bits of noise in Paramount’s Blu-ray encode. Chroma artifacts pop out on occasion. Typically though, Suburbicon’s digital imagery shines on this disc. High clarity and pleasing sharpness produce exceptional definition. Suburbicon itself looks great from a distance, resolving roof shingles and well maintained lawns. In close, facial detail is consistently handled.

Skewing toward warmer hues brings out primaries. Great examples of red and green make for stand-out moments. Natural flesh tones look great.

Depth can suffer with a restriction on black levels. Those tend to waver into blues and grays from the necessity of tone. When utilized though, shadows can dominate, giving images dimension. Contrast remains perky, soaking sun-lit exteriors and even interiors. Suburbicon is not low on light.

Audio

It takes a while, but Suburbicon’s third act finds use for this DTS-HD track beyond dialog. Citizens of the suburb cause a ruckus, the crowd spreading into the positional channels. Fire and explosions begin to spike as the plot unravels, panning into the rears and hitting the LFE with a small jolt. This is by no means aggressive, but a pleasant sonic texture to an otherwise centered mix.

Prior to the uptick in action, Suburbicon’s score spreads wide into this 5.1 mix. It’s an unusually booming musical accompaniment.

Extras

George Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov deliver their thoughts over a commentary track. Next up is Welcome to Suburbia, a 29-minute peek at the making of, although this feature froze six minutes in on multiple Blu-ray players. What’s there is a look into the real events that inspired the script and an emotional conversation with child actor Tony Espinosa. The Unusual Suspects looks at the cast for 12-minutes, and Scoring Suburbicon explains itself (and runs seven minutes).

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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