US | 2019 | Directed by Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe
Logline: In a distorted reality two suburban mothers are in a perpetual, unspoken competition to better the other’s position and achievements.
Have you ever had one of those dreams where everything appears to be normal and regular, yet there are oddities all around, and as the dream progresses and the irregularities spread, your sanity begins to fray, as the world you took for granted is turned upside down, inside out?
It’s become a crazy pink trash fire.
This isn’t just about the shit-fight of keeping up with the Joneses, it’s about the rat race extremis terrorablis. Imagine if David Lynch and John Waters had got stoned and written and directed a mash-up of Square Pegs and Soap. This is a comedy of manners painted in cartoon-rich pastels, yet the tongue in cheek is black as soot. It’s a satire sharper than a bread knife, a parody of prime time domesticity, informercials, and self-help books - “Kids With Knives”, “Bald Men With Bouquets”, “Mating In Captivity” - so insightful you’ll need shades.
Joint writers and directors Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe have created an absurdist masterpiece (joint being an operative word). Greener Grass demands instant cult status as intensely as a screaming toddler demands you answer their toy phone. It cannot be ignored, it cannot be denied, it’s making your ears ring, the irony so melodic, you might even bloody well sing!
Jill Davies (DeBoer) and Lisa Wetbottom (Luebbe) are suburban neighbours. Thirtysomething soccer mums, with matching braces on their perfect teeth, driving golf club carts as the family car, they dutifully attend all social events and school activities, and even though things don’t always go to plan, they grin and bear it in the most pristine and pleasant(ville) way. Oh, and they are married to deeply sycophantic men, one of whom decides that drinking the in-ground pool water is the new elixir. But someone is spying and sniggering …
To begin describing where plans go awry would be to spoil this movie’s delightfully twisted wrenching of the spanner-in-the-works. One has to experience Greener Grass first hand, soak it in, lap it up, swirl it around inside the mouth, savour the hideousness like glorious hors d’leurves from the late 70s/early 80s. Hopefully you’ll hoot and holler at the movie’s garish presentation, and the sheer farcical brilliance will make you cry with laughter.
It’s SNAFUF: Situation Normal, All Fucked Up and Funny.
DeBoer and Luebbe, both veterans of the US theatre and television comedy scene, have expanded their 2015 short (which was directed by SNL’s Paul Briganti and won Special Jury Award at SXSW) into a debut feature and it works an absolute treat. It’s an Acquired Taste, but rare as hen’s molars are the American filmmakers that skilfully eviscerate with astute comic chutzpah the trappings that have made their daytime/primetime shows the butt of the joke over and over.
The performances are bang on, especially DeBoer and Luebbe, also D’Arcy Carden as school teacher Miss Human, and all the child actors get bonus points. And purple hearts. Keep an eye out for Jim Cummings (Thunder Road) who very briefly turns on the waterworks in hilarious fashion (again). Love that guy.
The grass might seem greener in this “oh-so-pretty” hell, but this is the dark comic end of the suburban sack, a saccharine-kitsch apocalypse, a spectacular display of ruined entitlement and the futility of seeking approval and acceptance. The cruel world reigns supreme. Smiling depression, it’s the real thing. It’s a dream you can’t wake up from.
I’ll go out on a limb and say Greener Grass would make the perfect viewing bedfellow with Steve Oram’s anarchic gem Aaaaaaaah!
This is the deep trash treasure of the year.