It’s a project that has been rumoured for the best part of a decade, but it seems that the pieces are finally falling into place for Suburbicon – an as-yet unproduced script by Academy Award winners Joel and Ethan Coen. This time, however, it will not be the celebrated siblings calling the shots – it will be their now regular collaborator, George Clooney.
Suburbicon has remained a mystery – an almost mythical concept, the existence of which has only ever been confirmed by fleeting whispers on the Hollywood breeze. It has always generated interest, though, because it promises to be a return to the tone of the very first feature film directed by the Coen Brothers – Blood Simple. In conversation, it has always been characterized as a 1950s noirish crime drama, so the question becomes, will handing it over to another filmmaker be a help or a hindrance to this long awaited project?
One of the reasons that the Coen Brothers are so legendary is that they have a very specific style – both in their filmmaking, and in their writing. While their directorial filmography largely comprises their own screenplays, they do, on occasion write (or co-write) movies to be directed by others – including Michael Hoffman’s Gambit, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, and Steven Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies. The move to have their work helmed by George Clooney is, however, something of a gamble.
Clooney clearly has a solid grasp of the nature of the work of the Coen Brothers. He has been collaborating with the filmmakers since 2000’s O Brother Where Art Thou?, and has seen that creative partnership bear such enjoyable fruit as Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading, and the upcoming Hail, Caesar! It is the Coen Brothers comedy line for which he is a go-to performer, though. We have never seen Clooney go particularly dark for these visionary directors. In terms of his own directing career, Clooney has excelled in heavy, political drama – with Good Night And Good Luck and The Ides Of March as standouts. The Monuments Men – his most recent turn behind the camera – was a significant failure as a creative project, however.
This makes the latest news interesting on two points. Firstly, George Clooney becomes another example of a white male director who continues to find work opportunities, despite having a notable critical and commercial failure immediately behind him. Women directors rarely enjoy the same courtesy. Secondly, and on a more positive note, could this give Clooney the chance to regain his filmmaking mojo? He has previously demonstrated, with Good Night And Good Luck and Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, that he can deftly handle period pieces – and he is as familiar with the Coen Brothers style as anyone. If Suburbicon is indeed akin to the small, insular narrative of Blood Simple, then maybe that will enable Clooney to generate the kind of dramatic tension that was entirely absent from The Monuments Men. We may well find out sooner rather than later, as this Joel Silver produced project is apparently coming together at a rapid pace.