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Matt Damon and the lie of tolerance

Suburbicon is directed by George Clooney, co-written by the Coen Brothers and stars Matt Damon and Oscar-winner Julianne Moore. Despite such a talented team behind it, Suburbicon is a startling disappointment that has been rubbished by critics and barely registered at box offices.

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Aiming to be a pitch-black “comedy” about the murderous undercurrent of an everyday white bloke (Matt Damon) in 1950s America, Suburbicon boasts unlikable characters, situations and an off-putting subplot about a child in peril. While so much about Suburbicon misses the mark – from its wonky tone, to tone-deaf banter and predictable, unsettling plot – this urban satire does land one memorable blow.

As Gardner (Damon) descends into one-dimensional evildoing, next door is the first African-American family to reside in the “perfect” place of Suburbicon. While none of Surbicon’s residents notice what Gardner is up to, his neighbours are harassed and vilified by a growing mob – simply for not sharing the same skin type as this white-bread community.

How to relate to those who are different from us is something we continue to grapple with.

Tempting as it is to dismiss this atrocious behaviour as being only a commentary upon the US during the 1950s, Suburbicon‘s portrait of intolerance should still sting all of us living in these modern times of alleged tolerance.

How to relate to those who are different from us is something we continue to grapple with. Progress is undeniable when it comes to social and legal standing for different races, religions or gender, but you only need to scroll back through your Facebook feed to sample how poorly we can handle a different opinion, or point of view.

Suburbicon’s scenes of an African-American family being tormented are amped up to make a point, but that hardly defeats that point. As viewers are invited to recoil from the prejudiced judgment of the “white” mob in Suburbicon, where do we find ourselves in the scheme of relating to those different to us?

The lie of tolerance makes for a sad reality.

Think of a contemporary hot-button issue and, then, assess the ways we can make or defend our positions. Does the loudest voice win by virtue of being loudest, a victory that includes the silencing of any dissent? Be it a majority or minority stance, does one side of a debate simply refuse to acknowledge the other? Have arguments crashed to such a low point that agreeing to disagree is seen as impossible or offensive?

As Matt Damon’s neighbours demonstrate in Suburbicon, the lie of tolerance makes for a sad reality. How long might we tolerate it?

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