Early reviews are starting to roll in for George Clooney’s latest directorial effort Suburbiconand reactions are disappointingly mixed for what was expected to be one of the powerhouses of the 2017 awards season.

It’s reasonable to believe that expectations are high for Suburbicon due to the pedigree both in front of and behind the camera. Clooney’s directorial career has been hit or miss (those who have seen Leatherheads or The Monuments Men can attest to this), but when he does helm a hit it’s typically a big one, like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck. In conjunction with his directorial skills, Clooney is working from a script by the Coen Brothers, whose extensive and acclaimed filmography need no introduction at this point. An irreverent tale of 1950s suburban violence and social disruption, the film also features the trio of Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac to run wild in the newfound chaos of this usually quiet neighborhood.

Related: Suburbicon Trailer & Poster

Suburbicon premiered at the Venice Film Festival this weekend, and the first reactions are pouring in from various outlets. Given the crude and violent nature of the film, reactions are split on whether or not Clooney’s film succeeds in its themes and tricky tone. You can read some excerpts from the first reactions to Suburbicon below, which are spoiler-free and varying in positivity and negativity. In conjunction with the first batch of reviews, Suburbicon gets a new billboard-esque poster, forebodingly touting the town as the place “where your problems disappear.”

Suburbicon Poster Matt Damon Julianne Moore Suburbicon Early Reviews Mixed; New Poster Shows Broken America

Marlow Stern – The Daily Beast

Clooney’s film boasts ace lensing, courtesy of the legendary Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood), that vividly captures this Pleasantville-esque suburbia, as well as top-notch turns all-around, including Damon and Moore as a pair in way over their heads, and child actors Noah Jupe and Tony Espinosa, in whose budding friendship lies hope for the future. Oscar Issac also pops up in the latter half as a prickly insurance claims investigator, chewing up the scenery. But the true engine of Suburbicon is its darkly satirical screenplay—one first written by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen in the ‘80s shortly after Blood Simple, and tweaked by Clooney and frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. Its twists and turns are aplenty, and with each passing sin, the hypocrisy of white supremacy is further exposed.

Alonso Duralde – The Wrap

Clooney’s directorial legacy won’t get any help from “Suburbicon,” a garish and overblown crime melodrama that combines clumsy noir with lame jabs at 1950s suburban conformity and racism, two subjects whose satirical sell-by date are now decades past. (Is racism in the United States as toxic as ever? Absolutely. Is pointing out the existence of racism in the gleaming Eisenhower era the stuff of dramatic counterpoint or groundbreaking observation? Nope.) Written by Joel and Ethan Coen and Clooney and Grant Heslov, the film veers back and forth between the obvious and the ridiculous.

Owen Gleiberman – Variety

From the moment he began directing, George Clooney has been a stylish, visually rhythmic, avidly engrossing yarn-spinner (the one exception, speaking of irony, is his biggest hit to date, the dud World War II art thriller “The Monuments Men”), and so it is with “Suburbicon.” It’s a movie that reels the audience in and keeps it hooked: with smart little kicks of surprise, with a sidelong but still highly charged social theme (the perilous cataclysm of integration), and, of course, with the squalid bad behavior of ordinary people who think that they can wriggle out of their unhappiness through furtive, cut-rate schemes. “Suburbicon” is probably too much of a compact, no-frills genre exercise to have much traction at awards time, but it’s enough of a plucky, well-made lark to find an audience.

Suburbicon Matt Damon Suburbicon Early Reviews Mixed; New Poster Shows Broken America

David Rooney – THR

It’s almost inevitable, while watching Suburbicon, that you find yourself wondering about the movie Joel and Ethan Coen might have made of it, had they gone ahead with their original script. Perhaps an anarchic comedy in the constantly surprising vein of Raising Arizona? Or a daring mix of grotesque violence and deadpan humor along the lines of Fargo? In the hands of director George Clooney, the material has some nasty charms, for sure. But it pushes too hard from the start, then steadily goes off the rails from dark to dyspeptic, lacking the originality, bite or tonal consistency to make up for dipping from a very familiar James M. Cain well. Its bigger problem is a timely subplot about virulent racism among white Americans that comes off as a mishandled afterthought.

Those who praise Suburbicon discussed the film’s sharp wit and its accidental timeliness in the wake of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia a couple weeks ago. Not everyone thinks that this mixture of violence and satirical humor works, however, as seen by the ratio of negative to positive reviews. With six reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 60 percent, with three positive and two negative currently booked.

Next: George Clooney Says Suburbicon Isn’t Really a Comedy

Source: Various (see links)

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