PRODUCERS: George Clooney, Joel Silver, Teddy Schwarzman and Grant Heslov
DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures
DIRECTOR: George Clooney
WRITERS: George Clooney, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen and Grant Heslov
CAST: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Glenn Fleshler, Josh Brolin, Megan Ferguson, Noah Jupe and Gary Barsaraba
SYNOPSIS (via IMDB): A crime mystery set in the quiet family town of Suburbicon during the 1950s, where the best and worst of humanity is hilariously reflected through the deeds of seemingly ordinary people. When a home invasion turns deadly, a picture-perfect family turns to blackmail, revenge and betrayal.
WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED: After finding awards success with “Good Night, and Good Luck” in 2005 and “Argo” in 2012, the Clooney/Heslov partnership is due for a three-peat. Both films were similarly period pieces featuring ensembles of the highest thespian order. With the Coens assisting the producer pair, “Suburbicon” will likely avoid the hokey dialogue pitfalls of “Monuments Men.” Furthermore, the film’s key players in Julianne Moore and Matt Damon will instantly raise the profile of the crime dramedy. Both actors know how to bring their dark comedy A-game, though it remains to be seen how Oscar Isaac fits into the mix. Granted, Isaac’s last team-up with the Coens was the extraordinary “Inside Llewyn Davis,” so he shouldn’t be an awkward fit.
What surges this movie to the top of upcoming awards contenders is its familial thematic roots. For the past several telecasts, there has always been at least one dysfunctional family drama and/or comedy in the mix. “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Room,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Boyhood,” and “The Descendants” all went the distance. Heslov and Clooney are surely going to pry the facade of suburban family “normalcy” wide open for dark exposure. So long as the film’s narrative is as riveting as the actors navigating it, “Suburbicon” should be a Coen-esque delight.
WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED: Of Clooney’s previous five directorial efforts, only one was a “Best Picture” nominee (“Good Night, and Good Luck”). His batting average hasn’t matched his stature and respect among his peers, primarily due to critical derailment. Despite being a sleeper hit, “Monuments Men” was pummeled with negative reviews, prompting Clooney to apologize for his WWII caper. The pressure is on for “Suburbicon” to erase the negative taste of “Monuments Men” and remind viewers of Clooney’s directorial capabilities. One major concern is Clooney and Heslov insisting on co-writing with the Coens. If the film proves disastrous, critics will first point to the “too many cooks in the kitchen” red flag. Finally, when it comes to dialogue, no one should be supervising the Coens.
Given the comedic layering of this story, the concern is that “Suburbicon” might lack real period insight or substance. After coming off one of the most serious subject matter “Best Picture” lineups ever, it’s hard to imagine something as trivial as “Suburbicon” making waves deep in the year. The film strikes me as more “Big Lebowski” or “Burn After Reading” than “Fargo” or “No Country for Old Men.” The aforementioned Coen films are brilliant, but the latter two clearly meet a certain prestige criteria necessary for Oscars. The film’s biggest hurdle is overcoming its genre trappings, and no amount of star charm can override trivial content.
POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:
- Motion Picture — George Clooney, Joel Silver, Teddy Schwarzman and Grant Heslov
- Director — George Clooney
- Actor in a Leading Role — Matt Damon
- Actress in a Leading Role — Julianne Moore
- Actor in a Supporting Role — Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin
- Original Screenplay — George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
- Production Design — James D. Bissell
- Cinematography — Robert Elswit
- Costume Design — Jenny Eagan
- Film Editing — Stephen Mirrione
- Original Score — Alexandre Desplat
- Achievement in Hairstyling and Makeup
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