Oh wow, George Clooney directs a film from a screenplay written by the Coen Brothers, and Matt Damon and Julianne Moore are in it, so it should at least be a fairly entertaining popcorn kind of flick—false! Suburbicon is mostly just weird and confusing with the bulk of the suspense fizzling out thanks to telegraphed plot beats and a meandering series of non-events bookended by Fargo-esque darkness that never quite gets there.

Damon is Gardner Lodge, some outwardly normal 1960s American dad who runs afoul of some very bad men. The in-too-deep trope works hard here as everyone from the bad guys and insurance investigators attempt to muck up his sinister plans. Unfortunately, Suburbicon seems to save the good stuff for offscreen moments or unseen prologue nonsense that we're supposed to just understand already happened. This is baffling and cumbersome, especially with its holier-than-thou subtext about racism and the flawed nature of the American dream. Subtext, in fact, implies subtlety, of which Suburbicon has none.

Young Noah Jupe does surprise as Damon's son Nicky, as natural a performance as we actually get out of the film, whereas literally everyone else—even True Detective villain Glenn Fleshler, who is usually superb, falls flat under Clooney's seeming insistence to point out how very creepy Levittown-type suburban tracts actually were (and are). Oscar Isaac (Star Wars) brings a brief respite of levity in his too-short appearance, but even he's gone before we know it, and it's back to Damon struggling for nuance when he should really just stick to Bourne movies or acting like he didn't know what was up with Weinstein.

Kudos are in order for both art direction and an intense dedication to capturing the atmosphere of the 1960s, but methinks that if any other filmmakers had taken a stab at such a tale, it might never have been made. So here's to you, Coen Brothers—you truly did help your buddy and his buddy make a movie. It still hurts, though, that anyone else might think it'd be worthwhile.

4
+Fantastic set design; Noah Jupe
-Just plain not that good
Suburbicon
Directed by Clooney
With Damon, Moore, Jupe, Fleshler
Violet Crown, R, 104 min.