• by Wes Singleton

Suburbicon, C-

Rated R, 105 minutes

The scattered new George Clooney-directed dark comedy "Suburbicon" is an occasionally fun though uneven mixture of dark comedy, social satire and crime. It starts off well until it nearly falls apart under a messy, disjointed last act.

It's 1959 middle America peaceful, idyllic, suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns -- the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family (Oscar-winners Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, along with terrific newcomer Noah Jupe) is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Damon) must navigate the town's dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit and violence.

In spite of a slightly twisted narrative, Clooney's heavy-handed "Suburbicon," to put it politely, is a mess. Directed by Clooney and co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Clooney and Clooney's frequent collaborator Grant Heslov, the narrative is a little all over the place, as it can't decide what it wants to do: make some social statements, kill a bunch of people or make you laugh. It does all three sporadically until it heads South in the last act.

To be fair, the Coen's originally wrote their script over 30 years ago and it does has some timely elements to it, but Clooney could've tightened "Suburbicon" up some to focus on the crime or family elements, which work better here. The social statements - dealing mostly with race - only skim the surface and are badly integrated into the story, which is unfortunate, since those elements would've been most relevant for today. Instead, all we get is that the town is racist, but we don't have a great understanding of how or why, and the big racist protest in front of a black family's home in the last act accomplishes nothing at all.

Damon is likable enough as usual, but it's his weakest, laziest role in years, compared to the hammy, scene-stealing Moore, who's a nice mix of fragility, mental instability and '50's-era charm, along with a breakout turn by newcomer Jupe in his feature film debut. As the unknowing son who unravels his father's sinister motives, Jupe perfectly captures a kid who knows more than he lets on, and his final scene with Damon is the film's best.

The unfocused "Suburbicon" has a few good moments, a couple of fun surprises and a terrific, breakout turn from a young actor, but it's all but ruined by that awful last act that seems to have been pieced together in post-production. Considering everyone involved, it's a big disappointment for Clooney, the Coen's, Moore and Damon.

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