George Clooney is quite a fine actor, and like any actor he eventually said “but what I really want to do is direct.”
His directorial output has been a mixed bag and he wears his influences proudly. With his new film Suburbicon currently on release, we decided to rate the collected of George Clooney directed movies thus far.
The lightest and frothiest film in his output is also the most forgettable. Originally titled Playing Dirty, the film focuses on football in the raging 20s, with John “Jim from The Office” Krasinski playing a college football star. He is drafted by George Clooney’s Dodge Connolly to help the struggling team get the attention of the country, or something like that.
On the back of this there is suggestion that this new star of the football team is not all that he seems, with an investigation underway by a sassy newswoman played by Renee Zelwegger, who is determined to uncover the truth.
Throw in a fizzy love triangle with Kransinski, Georgeous George and Renee Zelwegger and you’ve got an idea of what’s happening here. It’s a throwback to screwball comedies of yesteryear but just not a very successful one. Too smug for its own good; too much plot for a straightforward comedy.
George dusts off an old script hidden in the Coen brothers’ sock drawer for the better part of 30 years and decides to give it crack. It should have stayed in the drawer.
Centred around a perfectly manicured 50s town, things begin to ravel with murders and a spectacled Matt Damon and a dyed blonde Julianne Moore. The Coen brothers wrote the script that has the usual quirky hallmarks of their lighter work, but the edges have been sawn down.
The movie is at war with a better story involving a race struggle within the town, based on a true story involving the Myer’s family, who moved into an all white suburb in 1957. This subsequently started a months’ long race war in the town of Levittown.
The murder mystery playing out in parallel is sadly just not very interesting. All the characters are loathsome, and anyone who can make Julianne Moore and Matt Damon bland deserves a slap on the wrist.
The only saving grace of the film is Oscar Isaac in a glorified cameo, showing up like a breathe of fresh air as an insurance man investigating the case. With George being a regular Coen brothers player it’s amazing that he couldn’t translate the material more effectively. Coen light is just not right.
4. The Monuments Men
This should have been so much better than the end result. The great Sony hack of 2014 showed emails of Clooney battling with his film, claiming he’d lost control of the project and that he felt like he’d “let you all down”. It’s not the disaster he claims it is, just a little uninspiring.
A ragtag bunch of art scholars and friends are recruited in WWII to retrieve some stolen art from the Nazis. A dream cast is drafted for what on paper sounds like Ocean’s Eleven during the war. Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and fresh off his oscar win for The Artist, Jean Jurdagin.
While specific scenes work, nothing adds up to be rather emotionally satisfying. Save for a stand out sequence with Bill Murray and a Christmas song (trust me) beautifully realised.
The directing is heavy handed, which nails the message that art can save the world repeatedly into the audience. More enjoyment and depth can be found in the similarly plotted The Simpsons episode of Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish’.
3. Confessions of Dangerous Mind
If there was ever a project George was able to use his name to get off the ground, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is that project.
In 2002, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman was just about the hottest writer in town, riding high on the back of the one-two punch that was Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. His latest script had sadly wound up on the infamous Hollywood blacklist of best screenplays to not be picked up. Determined to make the film a reality, George himself stepped behind the lens for the first time.
The film is based on the memoirs of Chuck Barris, who invented The Dating Game – among others – and was the host of The Gong Show. Barris supposedly also lived a double life working for the CIA as a hit man.
An at the time rare starring appearance for indie favourite Sam Rockwell is arguably one of his finest efforts, perfectly keeping the audience guessing if he did or didn’t.
Peppered with a rich supporting cast including Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore and Clooney himself, it’s the most colourful and playful film Clooney has made.
The story is left up in the air about if it’s true or fabricated, but one thing is for certain: it’s highly enjoyable.
2. The Ides of March
Georgie boy rescues another script from the blacklist scrapheap. The most entertaining selection from the George Clooney directed film catalogue to date.
In this tale Ryan Gosling is the young hot-shot political advisor Stephen Myers to George Clooney’s presidential candidate Mike Morris, learning on the front-line all the tricks of dirty politics.
As the campaign progresses the plot thickens, vaguely resembling the similarly themed John Travolta vehicle Primary Colors. Some nice directorial touches are on display, with many of the campaign posters emulating the famous Barack Obama ‘Hope’ posters.
Ryan Gosling doubles down on his now trademark schtick of being the most charming man in the room while also able to command a scene with absolute stillness. His chemistry with pre Westworld Evan Rachel Wood and Clooney himself is fantastic.
The calibre of actors on display here is a testament to the strength in the story. The late great Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti & regular bond sidekick Jeffrey Wright all take part in proceedings.
It’s not a new tale by any means; if made in the 1970s it would surely have been a run-of-the-mill Robert Redford political tale. A cracking script that’s solidly executed on every level without an ounce of fat in the film.
1. Good Night, and Good Luck
You have to hand it to Mr Clooney: When he’s passionate about a project, he puts his money where his mouth is. This rewarded him with his most acclaimed film to date.
For Good Night, and Good Luck he mortgaged his own house in order to make up the budget to make the film.
This gorgeously photographed black and white news drama is based on the true story of journalists Edward R. Murrow (David Stratharn) and Fred Friendly, and their quest to bring down American Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950s.
David Stratharn is pitch perfect here as the newsman not willing to give in. His performance garnered him an Oscar nomination for an actor in a leading role, in addition to a further five nominations for the film, including writing and directing.
Clooney brings some real class to proceedings here; live jazz numbers are performed throughout the film to break up the chatter. It’s a bold move that pays off handsomely. Even Iron Man himself is on hand to swirl through the cigarette smoke and make an impression.
Good Night, and Good Luck is the benchmark of what Clooney can bring to the table as a director; it remains his most accomplished work, as much as it is risky. Time will tell if we get another awards-worthy masterpiece.