‘Suburbicon’ is the sixth movie directed by actor George Clooney. He’s turned into a fine helmer with his eye for characterisation generally hitting its targets. But even good directors stumble occasionally as ‘Suburbicon’ proves. Although infused with his gift for well-drawn off-kilter personas, his latest effort disappoints. An examination of the ‘dangers’ of suburban life in 1950’s America, ‘Suburbicon’ only shows a modicum of Clooney’s directorial flair.

Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) is an office worker with a secret. Supporting his family including wife Rose (Julianne Moore) and son Nicky (Noah Jupe), Gardner’s life soon turns askew. This is due to the presence of shady types including hitman Ira (Glenn Fleshler) and Hightower (Jack Conley). How these people enter Gardner’s life is slowly revealed as his hoped-for peaceful utopia is shattered in ways he never could have foreseen.

There’s nothing worse than watching a movie trying too hard. ‘Suburbicon’ feels like a quirky crime thriller in the style of the famed Coen Brothers directing team. It doesn’t work due to unlikeable characters and muddled direction. Clooney has done better and it’s strange how he let the production run away from him. It isn’t the fault of the actors who perfectly embody their characters even if a few over-play them to the point of distraction.

The mix of humour and drama doesn’t quite work although the social commentary on the rampant hypocrisy of 1950’s attitudes is well realised. These elements show how good ‘Suburbicon’ could have been which makes viewing more frustrating. The predictable resolution provides little excitement with the story swiftly collapsing into a mess. When you tire of its nasty characters within a few minutes of it starting you know a film is in trouble with their eventual comeuppance providing merciful relief.

‘Suburbicon’ is the least of Clooney’s directing output. Unfocussed, confusing and scrambling towards its conclusion, it fails to register as required watching. Clooney has the talents to recover from this setback with his determination to succeed sure to provide a better vehicle next time.

Rating out of 10: 5

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