Matt Damon and Julianne Moore star in this George Clooney Directed and Coen Brothers written drama. The perfect Suburban neighbourhood is thrown into chaos when new residents, an African American family, move in. In 1950’s America a African American family in an All White neighbourhood gives the White people a common cause and they hound the family day and night in ever increasing violence. Meanwhile in a nearby house Gardiner Lodge, his Wife and Sister in law, plus their young son Nicky are going through a home invasion and the aftermath.
I’ll start this by saying I enjoyed this film at the time of watching the film. It’s only after thinking about the film that you start to realise the amount of flaws and the overkill on the social commentary. Also in saying that if you can be forgiving of flaws like most of my friends are then it’s one of the most darkly rich black comedies that I’ve seen in a long time.
It doesn’t take long for the stamp of The Coen Brothers to be clear on this, practically from the first frames of the film, you see their mark. It’s not strange as their friends George Clooney and Grant Heslov are involved too. Clooney behind the camera as Director is growing in his confidence. But the viewer gets the feeling that it’s more a Coen Brothers film than a George Clooney film. Matt Damon is instantly unlikeable as Gardiner, which is a testament to his talent, it takes a lot to make you hate a likeable figure. Julianne Moore plays two roles but it’s only as Margaret that she really shines. The real stand out performance is by the son Nicky played by Noah Jupe, playing the boy who is both horrified at the home invasion, and trying to cope with the aftermath, then learning the truth of the crime. He’s one of those young performers that you’ve got to keep an eye out for.
While the home invasion story is exciting and disturbing, there is a feeling of Raising Arizona in some elements and then The Man Who Wasn’t There, you also have the racial segregation story going on. You get instantly get the story device of the racial problems distracting the community from the horrible crime that is going on just yards away from the murder, and that is also a problem. Clooney and The Coens are so hell bent on pushing the social agenda of the film that it starts to slow down the momentum of the story of Damon and Julianne Moore. It’s typical Coen Brothers flare and storytelling and if you know their films as this old dog of a reviewer knows then there is no one else that could be behind this film.
The era that the film is set in is perfect for the storyline but the overkill that Clooney and company are shoving down your throat with the social issues that are still facing America, and how politicians are using the racial issue to distract from their own dirty deals that you lose the story. This type of film is all about the story and when that is overwhelmed by a sub plot that is jammed into the story with all the subtlety of an uppercut to the jaw it’s a crying shame. If I separate the two stories in the film it doesn’t work at all. Maybe that is the problem here. They had the idea of the home invasion dark comedy, classic Coen Brothers, and then Clooney, the voice of the people, rams home the social commentary. I still enjoyed this film while watching it, but like a bad wine, there is just too much of a bitter aftertaste to make me want to go back.
Director: George Clooney
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen | 2 more credits
Stars: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac & More! See full cast & crew