CIFF REVIEW: Greener Grass

Greener Grass is unlike any movie you are bound to see this year, let alone your entire life. This is absurtist humour to the extreme, hinging on outright surrealism which makes for a very unique and out of this world comedy.

The film is the brain child of writer/directors Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, both of whom star in it as well. It takes place in what might be explained as a suburban alternate universe, where children turn into dogs, mothers give away their babies to their neighbours, and everyone drives golf carts instead of actual vehicles. There have been satirical takes on the suburbs before, but this is the first one which feels the most alien and apart from reality I’ve ever seen.

The film sometimes feels like a series of sketches strung together, each one becoming becoming more and more far flung from reality, crescendoing into a type of nightmare scenario. Although the film has very hilarious moments, there are times of unease and tension which peters towards horror sometimes.

The crux on the story hinges mostly on Jill (DeBoer) and Lisa (Luebbe), two suburban housewives who usually meet up at their respective sons’ soccer games. Jill has a newborn baby which Lisa admires, and right off the bat, we see how absurd this movie gets when Jill offers her baby to Lisa as a gift. It’s an off-kilter beginning that starts the film off with a delightful tone of unpredictability. I became invested not knowing what next to expect.

Another moment comes soon after when Jill and Lisa are with their husbands Nick and Dennis (Played by Beck Bennett and Neil Casey), with each couple kissing each other, until it is revealed that they accidentally mixed up their spouses. Later Jill’s soccer playing child Julian (Julian Hillard) turns into a dog, which is just genuinly accepted without any explanation. There is also a serial killer on the loose who is accused of murdering the local yoga instructer, and who’s point of view we often see stalking the main characters. Also Lisa gives birth to a soccer ball who she calls Twilson since Wilson is Tom Hanks’ baby.

It’s hard to decipher the plot of Greener Grass since it’s mostly a series of random occurances that happen in this rather bizarre world. That isn’t to say I didn’t appreciate it, in fact I found it quite refreshing. We see Jill as somewhat the main protagonist who seems to be going through the most change throughout the film as she seems to regret giving up her baby to Lisa. Her transition comes after her son turns into a dog and others pressure her into divorcing her husband giving her a feeling of emptiness. She actually has a moment where she flees the confines of suburban life in a sequence which is seperate parts liberating, confusing, and terrifying. At this point in the film I would’ve appreciated more resolution, but the film doesn’t end this way, it stays true to the tone it sets up at the beginning.

Greener Grass is sure to be polarizing, particularly for people who don’t jump on to the absurtist tone it sets up at the beginning, it’s definitley not for everybody. However I do admire that this film knows exactly what its doing, and despite what one may think of the humour, which admittedly doesn’t land, it executes its intention almost perfectly.

There is a theme of how in a materialistic lifestyle, having more things whether it’s a bigger house, or a newborn baby, even if it’s a soccer ball has meaning. The idea of life is to attain more things and being able to gloat about it to your peers. It’s not an empty idea, but it isn’t a new one either, however I don’t think it has ever been presented in a way such as this.

Admittedly by the end, the jokes do become static, with the same beats hitting far too often, and the gags become less inspired. It’s not surprising to know that the original concept of the film came from a short, which, when viewed works much better than the feature. The characters are more concise, and the gags are more consistent. The tone is still there, and it makes for a delightful suburban satire.

This is not the first time the suburbs have been satirized, but the unique take of material made for a mostly refreshing viewing experience. I only wish it didn’t run out of steam. DeBoer and Luebbe are definitely talented comediennes who I hope come into their own with their next feature. Their comedy is an acquired taste for sure, but it feels fresher and more daring than most studio mandated comedies, even if the jokes sometimes fall flat. I feel like this was a risk that didn’t quite pay off to the extent the creators had hoped for, that doesn’t mean it’s without merit.

3 stars out of 5

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