By Sarah Mills
VENICE (Reuters) – Breaking the brittle veneer of the picture-perfect suburbs of 1950s America, George Clooney’s new satire tackles racial prejudice which the actor and director said on Saturday continues to erupt in today’s angry society.
“Suburbicon”, starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, is set in a town of that name which is rudely awoken from the American dream by a series of surreal crimes and the residents’ furious reaction to a black family’s arrival in the neighborhood.
“This is a movie about our coming to terms with the idea that we have never addressed our issues with race fully,” Clooney told a news conference after the premiere at the 74th annual Venice film festival.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do, from our original sin of slavery and racism.”
Damon said last month’s violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia showed the issues addressed in the film “have not and will not go away until there is an honest reckoning in our country”.
Damon plays Gardner, a family man whose home life darkens as tensions rise in the community outside, while Moore plays both his wife and her twin sister.
Based on a script written by Joel and Ethan Coen in the 1980s, the film opens with a cheery prologue promoting the charms of Suburbicon, which include a church and a mall.
But the promise that it is a “melting pot of diversity” is quickly and categorically disproved, and a burgeoning friendship between a white boy and his black neighbor sparks violence.
Clooney, a festival stalwart who got married in a star-studded party in Venice in 2014 and has since made Italy his second home, said the film reflected deep anger in his home country, although he declared, “this isn’t a movie about (President) Donald Trump”.
“People are angry, a lot of us are angry, angry at ourselves, angry at the way that the country is going, angry at the way the world is going,” he said.
Asked whether he would like to be the next U.S. President, Clooney joked, “That sounds like fun!” and Damon cut in: “Can I just say I would like anybody to be the next President of the United States, right away please.”
“Suburbicon” is Clooney’s latest turn in the director’s chair since 2014’s “The Monuments Men”, but he is perhaps best known for his decades-long acting career.
He reminisced on Saturday about participating in Civil War re-enactments in his home state of Kentucky when he was growing up, when the meaning of the roles assigned had eluded him.
“You got to pick if you wanted to be a union or a rebel soldier and I was like give me the rebel, I want to be the rebel. You didn’t really understand the history of the Confederate flag … a flag that was designed to carry into battle … in favor of slavery.”
(Writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Ros Russell)