One of the most anticipated films of the Toronto International Film Festival, Suburbicon, directed by one of Cincinnati’s favorite sons, George Clooney, came from the Venice Film Festival straight to weekend showings here at TIFF. Clooney, who brought the production of The Ides of March to Cincinnati more than seven years ago, wrote Suburbicon along with the Coen brothers and his long-time writing partner Grant Heslov. The feature played to a packed house at Roy Thomson Hall in the heart of TIFF’s Festival Street Sunday afternoon, and Clooney came on stage after the showing for a quick Q & A with the audience.
The story, not to give anything away, is a mix of race relations in the late 1950s and the angst of a dysfunctional relationship between Matt Damon’s character and that of Juliette Moore (playing twins). In the Q&A, Clooney referenced his upbringing in Greater Cincinnati as an influence as to the inflection of the movie that depicts racial conflict in the 50’s.
“I grew up in Kentucky during the civil rights movement,” Clooney said, “and we really thought we were moving in the right trajectory, we thought that we got rid of segregation, we thought we were going to head this whole thing off at the pass and finally get rid of it. We saw it and we never really completed it.”
He also talked about the relationship between the tone of the movie and today’s political tone. “I’m not sure movies are very good at doing topical stories,” Clooney said. “The conversations we were talking about when we were writing was not about Charlottesville, it was about Mexicans and Muslims.
“It takes two years to make a movie, so I think what films DO right, is talking about subjects that are socially relevant. What they can do is put a pin in a moment in time and remind us of where we were and what we were thinking, and we do that very well.”
He also talked about how, as a producer, you need to work with the actors to tell the story. “It’s your responsibility to tell them what movie they’re gonna be in. So they’re all acting in the same way. Luckily, I had these insanely talented actors. The tone in general, I had to set it, here’s the playground we’re playing on. And then you guys take it from there.”
He also referenced his Cincinnati childhood to reflect on the social and racial messages in the movie. “Unfortunately, you don’t have to be a soothsayer to realize that we’re going to constantly have to be dealing with these issues. My father (Nick) was an anchorman in Cincinnati, and I remember at one point there were six skinheads protesting on Fountain Square (In Cincinnati) so he had to go down and cover the story and watch six idiots running around doing stupid things.
“And he takes the camera and goes to the top of Carew Tower, which was (then) the tallest building in Cincinnati and he shoots down on these six little idiots with probably a thousand people around yelling at them. Because he wanted to put into perspective how much they really represented the city of 400,000 and really our country. They don’t represent us. They don’t represent who we are.”
Suburbicon shows again at TIFF on Wednesday, September 13.