The darkside of the American Dream was a constant theme at Venice, and George Clooney’s adaptation of an old Coen brothers’ script was the most naked assault on its current state, even using a blatant Confederate flag to underline its points, as if with a sledgehammer.
I loved it, though there were plenty who felt it unsubtle. Clooney directs Matt Damon and Julianne Moore in a pastiche tale incorporating Hitchcock and films noirs (Double Indemnity etc) as well as the real-life events of a race that took place in Levittown in 1957, when a black family moved into a white “cookie-cutter’’ housing estate.
The escalating racial face-off provides the backdrop here for a story in which Damon and Moore fake the murder of his wife in order to claim the insurance money. It’s all seen through the eyes of Damon’s child, who witnesses murder, lies, sex, brutality and bloodshed, but for whom a game of catch and throw baseball with the black kid over the fence could still solve it all.
I liked Clooney’s approach here – funny and scabrous, surreal and stylised. Moore is excellent (one flashes back to her more subtle work in Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven which had Venice in raptures back in 2002 and won her Best Actress here) and so is moustachioed Oscar Isaac in the few scenes he has as the claims investigator. I can see why people claimed it was patchy and felt like two films stitched together and tonally inconsistent – but for me, it all came together deliciously and deliriously.