Once upon a time, George Clooney was great director.
Three out of his first four films were outstanding. (“Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” “Good Night and Good Luck,” and “Ides of March”).
Those days are gone. Clooney’s latest bomb, “Suburbicon,” is terrible. Epically terrible. It’s the kind of film that only a great star filmmaker can make. If a new director presented “Suburbicon” to the studio executives, they’d fire him and scrap the film.
The year is 1959. The place is a fictional town called Suburbicon. Matt Damon and Julianne Moore star as Gardner and Rose: two bland, normal-looking suburbanites. They decide to commit a string of shocking crimes.
“Suburbicon” explores the secretiveness, desperation, and evil that hid behind the white picket fences of Eisenhower’s America.
The story was written by the Coen Brothers. And, on paper, “Suburbicon” is just like “Fargo.” But Clooney doesn’t understand that “Fargo” was a great film because of its comedy and its humanity, not just because of the violence and blood.
William H. Macy’s character in “Fargo” is one of cinema’s great villains. He commits one damnable act after another, but you never stop feeling for him because you see that he is suffering even more than his victims.
Matt Damon’s Gardner is a blank slate in a grey-flannel suit. I never understood him, I never empathized with him, and I never quite hated him. This is an embarrassing career low for Mr. Damon. Fortunately for him, no one is seeing this movie.
Hey, there are plenty of bad thrillers out there. No big deal. What makes “Suburbicon” special in its atrociousness is George Clooney’s tone-deaf take on race relations.
Gardner and Rose’s new next-door neighbors are the Myers family. They are the first black people in Suburbicon.
The Myers family doesn’t do anything wrong to offend their neighbors. In fact, they almost literally do nothing the entire film. The mother and father have, at most, five total lines. They aren’t so much black people as stoic saints played by black actors.
Nevertheless, their very presence causes the townspeople to go crazy. As Gardner and Rose go on their perverse crime spree, a mob of whacked-out whities gather around the Myers house to force them out.
George Clooney’s point – if you can call it that – is that white America is overacting so hard to what black people are doing that we are ignoring the hideous crimes of white people. The allegory is as simplistic as it is uninteresting.
Does Mr. Clooney think that all black people want is to move into white communities and act just like white people? Does he think that segregation in the suburbs was one of the worst crimes white America committed against the black community?
“Wow. 1950s white people were monsters,” Clooney proclaims, self-righteously. “Not like heroic Hollywood white people in the progressive 21st Century. Not like me and my activist wife!”
Meanwhile, just last year, Mr. Clooney actively supported candidates who take money from privately run prisons.
Clooney says that he is anti-segregation. But he has segregated himself so long in his Hollywood millionaire bubble that he has lost touch with the real world.
George Clooney was once a great director. Now he has seemingly lost his mind.