Clooney's Suburbicon Is 'Tone-Deaf' Failure
Critics call it 'shameful,' 'strikingly bad'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2017 8:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – You'd think only good fun could come from George Clooney directing Matt Damon in Suburbicon. Apparently not so. The satire touching on murder, fraud, and also racism in 1950s suburbia has just a 29% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's what they're saying.

  • "There's no other way to say it—this movie stinks," writes Katie Walsh at Tribune News Service, throwing out a long list of adjectives: "irritating, faux-edgy, tonally wack, strained, unfunny," along with "shoddy, shameful." She complains in particular about a racism subplot that comes across as "condescending" and says the film fails by wanting us to do two things—feel upset about that subplot while finding hilarity in a "satirical family murder insurance scam. ... You can't mix nihilism and earnestness."
  • Lindsey Bahr calls Suburbicon "a derivative and somewhat edgeless satire with some compelling performances nonetheless." Gary Basaraba and Oscar Isaac, specifically, are impressive, Bahr writes at the AP. But Damon and Julianne Moore aren't up to snuff. Nor is the story itself, which "doesn't even go far enough to satirize the hypocritical social mores of the time." The result feels "so much like something we've already seen before."

  • Chris Klimek was impressed with Damon, Moore, as well as Isaac and child actor Noah Jupe. Too bad they're in a "tone-deaf” film that's "queasy to sit through," he writes at NPR. In condemning racism "in the most broad, perfunctory, awareness-ribbon-wearing way while barely allowing its black characters to speak … Suburbicon might be the biggest embarrassment to pious Hollywood liberalism since Crash won best picture in 2006," he writes.
  • Colin Covert identifies the main problem as the reworking of Joel and Ethan Coen's script by Clooney and Grant Heslov, who should have made either a crime comedy or a piece of social commentary, but not both. Instead, Clooney made a film that's "strikingly bad, too somber to be a comedy and too dizzy to work as drama," Covert writes at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He does applaud Isaac, though. "In a film running a brief 104 minutes, he supplies 90% of the entertainment in 5% of the time."

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