Bud Cooper (Suburbicon)

Created by Joel Cohen and Ethan Coen
Revised by George Clooney and Grant Heslov

“It starts out like a Disney film, and by the end it feels like an acid trip.”
George Clooney, in Entertainment Weekly

In the 2017 blood-splattered black comedy Suburbicon (2017, Paramount), Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Noah Jupe are the squeaky clean (emphasis on “squeaky”) Lodges, a fifties-era suburban family, who are the victims of an alleged home invasion. But fast-talking insurance investigator BUD COOPER (Oscar Isaacs) is suspicious.

And it turns out his suspicions are well founded — the idyllic suburban setting hides a violent underbelly of lies, deceit, racism, and surprising violence.

Blood simple? You might say that…

It’s not really a private eye flick, but Oscar Isaacs’ brief performance as the slick insurance dick (maybe fifteen minutes, tops) who smells something rotten is the best thing about the film, which critics damned for being schizophrenic and unfocussed. And I agree. It feels incomplete–it’s almost like a Coen Bros. clip show.

But it’s not really their fault.

The film did indeed start out as a screenplay by the brothers, written back in 1986 or so, and was offered, around the time of O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000), to George Clooney who was being considered for the lead. But that film was never made, and the script sat around gathering dust. Or possibly mould.

Until several years later, when Clooney resurrected the project, added a secondary plot that unfortunately fit like a gym sock over a snowshoe, and plopped himself down in the director’s chair.

So whatever the brothers had in mind, Suburbicon wasn’t it. The film has its moments, and lots of good intentions, but too few of them to make it a must-see. Still…

Joel and Ethan Coen are, of course, no strangers to crime films of one sort or another. Their other films include True Grit, Miller’s Crossing, Raising Arizona, Hail, Caesar!, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Blood Simple, and the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men. Fans should also check out Ethan’s 1998 collection of short stories, Gates of Eden, which betrays a deep fondness for pulp and B-movie tropes of the crimonious kind.

TRIVIA

  • Shoot me if you want, but I swear the character of Bud Cooper was almost definitely inspired by Barton Keyes from James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity.

FILMS

  • SUBURBICON | Buy the DVD Buy the Blu-Ray Watch it now!
    (2017, Paramount)
    94 minutes
    Premiere: October 27, 2017
    Original screenplay by Joel Cohen and Ethan Coen
    Revised by George Clooney and Grant Heslov
    Directed by George Clooney
    Starring Oscar Isaacs as BUD COOPER
    with Matt Damon as Gardner Lodge
    and Julianne Moore as Margaret Lodge
    Also starring Noah Jupe, Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell, Megan Ferguson, Jack Conley, Gary Basaraba, Michael D. Cohen, Leith M. Burke, Karimah Westbrook, Tony Espinosa

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

THE DICK OF THE DAY

  • July 2, 2021
    The Bottom Line: Oscar Isaac makes the most of his short screen time as a wary insurance dick in SUBURBICON, a neglected black comedy script the bros fobbed off on George Clooney, who rewrote, directed & made it worse. (Sorry, George).
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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