Blu-ray Review: Greener Grass | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, November 21st, 2019  

Greener Grass

Studio: IFC Films
Directed by Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe

Oct 17, 2019 Web Exclusive
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Watching Greener Grass is a deeply unsettling experience. Set in a suburban sprawl as imagined by a ‘50s caricature of a pink-obsessed brat, every inhabitant grins ecstatically as they walk rigidly through their plastic lives. Babies are seen as easily transferable commodities, the drink of choice is the finest in filtered pool water, and there’s no crime worse than losing face publicly. It’s for these very same reasons, though, that watching Greener Grass is also deeply entertaining.

The debut feature by Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, alums of the prestigious NY comedy improv troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, Greener Grass is a bold vision of a utopian society as created by soccer moms. The whole world seems to exist on one giant astroturf lawn, only cut through with lanes so that picture-perfect families with 2.5 children can easily get around in their golf carts. It’s completely ridiculous, of course, and yet it’s also a refreshingly oddball indictment of the limitations of the American Dream. Another day, another kid’s soccer game to watch.

It’s at one of these absurdist sporting events that the film’s inciting incident takes place, not that Greener Grass is particularly plot driven. Two of the air-headed adult brace-sporting mums, Jill and Lisa (played by DeBoer and Luebbe respectively) sit on the stalls trading passive aggressive snark and hollow one-upmanship. After exchanging gossip and pleasantries, Jill goes one step further and gives Lisa her baby simply because Lisa remarks on her cuteness. “You can have her, she’s great!” she exclaims, with all the weight of lending a neighbour sugar.

The film’s ensuing successes stem largely from its framing of comedy as horror. Backed by Samuel Nobles’ impressive score (think John Carpenter by way of Full House) gags are held just a moment too long to induce a clammy unease, so much so that when DeBoer and Luebbe relinquish their grip, you can’t help but release a cathartic chuckle. Case in point: the opening credits play out over an extreme close-up on a set of perfectly tidy adult teeth pinned tightly in place by braces. The ruby red lips gurn and ripple, desperately trying to shy away from the strained smile. It’s absolutely grotesque, whilst also being genuinely striking.

In many ways, Greener Grass feels like an extended improvisational exercise. Given its overt surrealism, several sequences function as skits rather than as part of an interconnected narrative, especially the hysterical TV sequences (succinctly-titled shows in this universe include Kids with Knives and Bald Men with Bouquets). Even in its tendency to diverge and spill over, Greener Grass still works by dint of being moored to its clearly defined day-glo world, stuffed to the brim with minor details that all fit together cogently — relatively speaking.

Much like the constant sugar rush of its soap opera universe, Greener Grass does occasionally threaten to give you a headache thanks to its perpetually larger-than-life lurid colours. Fortunately, there’s always a sharply considered joke — or even just a very silly one — to soothe any brain rot caused by 100 minutes of existing in such a vacuous, bright green landscape. The greatest comedic trick up DeBoer and Luebbe’s collective sleeve is everyone maintaining the facade that they’re on the straight and narrow regardless of its brazen sickliness; what seems idyllic for them, verges on torture for the viewer. Whether it’ll make a masochist out of you is largely based on your appetite for such carefully considered insanity. 

(www.ifcfilms.com/films/greener-grass)

Author rating: 7/10

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