Suburbicon: a Film’s Failed Attempt with Social Commentary

Suburbicon is Directed by George Clooney and stars Matt Damon. (

Staff Writer

I was strangely intrigued the first time I watched the trailer for Suburbicon, a George Clooney directed crime-comedy film. From first glance, it seemed like a film that tackled significant societal themes. As a plus, the costume design looked elegant and purposeful, which reminded me of a fictional setting like the AMC show Mad Men.

However, Suburbicon, which was released on the pre-Halloween weekend, was massively disappointing. The film centers around a theme of American prejudice, race, and hate in a 1950’s suburban, white community. Unfortunately, the plotline is so ineffective in delivering the emotional quality that ought to be portrayed in a movie of American societal prejudice. The story is of an ideal, bucolic, middle-class community dubbed “Suburbicon” that is disrupted upon the moving in of an African American family.

This film is the prime example of one that unsuccessfully mixed elements of murder mystery and social commentary. Subsequently, the plot was jumbled and messy, and the movie becomes even more difficult to categorize.

The primary issue begins as the film oddly splits into two distinct storylines and both are so poorly intertwined that the underlying plot fails to deliver a coherent societal theme. One storyline is of the torment that the African-American family faces upon moving in and the other is of a white family’s case of a mysterious and twisted home invasion. It is clear, early in the film, that Clooney’s design of two plotlines will not intersect. It leaves a movie that is frustrating and perplexing for audiences who want to delve deeper into the development of the individual characters.  

While Clooney’s intention to detail the plight and struggles of an African-American family residing in a white community is valiant, it seems that he simply ignores this family for the remainder of the movie. As a result, the racial commentary, which seems to dominate the theme of the movie’s opening, is not re-addressed enough. The rest of the time, Suburbicon drifts in an awkward boundary between crime, comedy, and commentary, without significantly addressing any of the three. The case of the white family’s home invasion becomes meaningless and incredibly confusing; viewers never receive a thorough analysis of either family’s unique circumstances.

This is why this movie becomes difficult to categorize. There are far too many complex elements for Clooney to address in a single movie.

Suburbicon certainly attempts a socio-political theme carrying heavy weight, yet the manner in which Clooney shares the societal messages is messy, to say the least. The producers and director Clooney attempts to explore the underlying moral corruption and racial tension in a seemingly perfect, cookie-cutter suburban America.  However, this is strikingly unsuccessful because the protagonists are one-dimensional and boring. The film lacks any genuine, emotional scenes.

Statistically, the film made just $1.1 million on its first day and its weekend debut reached a meager $2.8 million. Both numbers fell dismally short of its expectations. Even a star-studded cast, consisting of Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac, could not save a sluggish plot and baffling message.

Without surprise, this movie records the lowest opening of Clooney’s directorial career and Matt Damon’s acting career. Clooney attempts to pack several, superficial ideas into one bland storyline, which leaves little room for legitimate social or racial commentary.