Damon, Clooney defend black family’s portrayal in ‘Suburbicon’

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The African-American family struggling to fit in to an all-white suburb in 1950s America in the George Clooney-directed dark satire “Suburbicon” was intentionally portrayed in a one-dimensional way, actor Matt Damon said on Sunday.

The film, based on a script written by Joel and Ethan Coen, stars Damon and Julianne Moore and depicts the violent efforts of the neighborhood’s white residents to oust a black family, the Meyers, after blaming them for a deadly break-in.

The film has received mixed reviews since its world premiere in Venice earlier this month, with some critics hammering its superficial treatment of the black characters.

“The Meyers family, you never know them, right, and that’s the point,” Damon told a news conference at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Because the town didn’t get to know them, they just freaked out.”

Moore added: “They blamed them for absolutely everything and then you see us in our little house quietly going about our dirty business.”

Moore plays both Damon’s wife and her sister, who hatches a plot with Damon’s character Gardner Lodge to stage a home invasion and get rid of the wife to start a new life together.

The film lands at a time of deep unease over race in America after white supremacists clashed with anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia last month, leaving one dead.

“Its bigger problem is a timely subplot about virulent racism among white Americans that comes off as a mishandled afterthought,” Hollywood Reporter said.

Film site Collider added that by depriving the Meyers of individual voices and having them “stand in for all black families, Clooney turns them into a cardboard cutout.”

“We wanted it to be entertaining, we didn’t want it to be a documentary and we didn’t want it to be an ‘eat your spinach’ piece of filmmaking,” Clooney told the news conference.

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