By Harris Dang
Cinematic comedies can be a curious thing to examine, due to the fact that humour is very subjective. No matter how far out the premise a comedy may be, the humour can always reach its mark if one can relate to it and if it is delivered with panache. It could be a revisionist parody of the King Arthurian legend like Terry Jones’ and Terry Gilliam’s “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975) or a taboo black comedy about the twisted human behaviour behind rape like Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” (2016); if the execution and immersion of the humour and filmmaking work, comedy can always have the ability to reach for greener pastures.
Case in point, Jocelyn deBoer‘s and Dawn Leubbe‘s feature-length directorial debut, “Greener Grass” (2019); an incredibly bizarre comedy about the porcelain-eating grinned people living in a disturbingly colour-coordinated, overly sunny suburbia. With such an alien premise filled with comedic potential, will the film succeed in bringing the laughs as well as the human element for audiences to relate to?
deBoer and Luebbe star as soccer moms and best friends Jill and Lisa. Throughout the story, the two are locked in a passive-aggressive conflict that takes a turn into the sinister when Lisa begins craftily taking over every aspect of Jill’s life starting with her newborn daughter, unbeknownst to Jill.
“Jocelyn deBoer’s and Dawn Leubbe’s feature-length directorial debut, “Greener Grass” (2019); an incredibly bizarre comedy about the porcelain-eating grinned people living in a disturbingly colour-coordinated, overly sunny suburbia.”
The story becomes more unusual and eerie as it goes on; with bonkers moments like having a psycho yoga teacher killer on the loose; or when Jill’s husband, Nick (Beck Bennett) develops a curious taste for pool water and last (and definitely not least) Lisa becomes pregnant with a soccer ball. Cue the inevitable “Cast Away” (2000) jokes.
Those elements alone guarantee that the film is that insane and it only becomes more unruly throughout its lean 100-minute runtime. Although the description may turn off many, it is a major credit to deBoer’s and Luebbe’s commitment to the material and the world they have envisioned that makes “Greener Grass” one of the funniest comedies of 2019.
The comedy itself is very singular as it goes into territory that is irreverent, ludicrous and quite creepy. But deBoer and Leubbe pump up the film with barbed social satire; especially when it revolves around the many expectations of being a female within society via status, success, and materialism.
The stereotypical image of being a housewife is ruthlessly parodied, like how mothers are constantly doing their kids’ homework for them, endlessly apologizing for no real reason, competitiveness among friends, and the downright unbelievable notion that women can only find lifetime fulfillment by becoming mothers.
The nurturing of children is one of the main themes in the film, especially the far-out ways one would reach success on that front i.e. Parents would brag on and on about how their children are good in “rocket math” or how children would instantly become pre-teen troublemakers after watching a TV show hilariously named “Kids with Knives.”
“Those elements alone guarantee that the film is that insane and it only becomes more unruly throughout its lean 100-minute runtime…The comedy itself is very singular as it goes into territory that is irreverent, ludicrous and quite creepy.”
Which goes into the theme of tolerance and how far one would go to keep it, just to get validation from others. The lengths these characters go through are spectacularly bonkers, yet they are all laced with enough humanity that one can go along with it and laugh at what is happening.
Speaking about what happens, deBoer and Leubbe have said in interviews that they made the film as a horror movie; which would explain their wise decision to never explain the world they have made or the weird occurrences that happen. Why do the civilians only drive golf carts? Why do certain people suddenly turn into dogs? Why does everyone wear braces? Things like that never get explained and it adds to the creepiness behind the comedic exterior.
All the jokes feel organic and effortless and that is all thanks to cast and crew all bring their A-game to the proceedings. deBoer and Luebbe have fantastic chemistry together, thanks to their back-and-forth camaraderie while the supporting cast including D’Arcy Carden (as an unbelievably aloof primary schoolteacher) and Julian Hilliard (as the disappointment of a child of Jill and Nick) are all wonderfully absurd. A highlight of the film involves Hilliard insulting her mother Jill and it is such a random one that it is gobsmackingly [sic] funny.
The production values excel through the roof, with costume designer Lauren Oppelt dressing the cast in pastel attire with attire that is reminiscent of “The Stepford Wives” (1975); while the colour palettes of all the sets and houses are reminiscent of early Tim Burton eg. “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” (1985) or “Edward Scissorhands” (1990). Samuel Nobles‘ palpable musical score conveys the whimsical and menacing nature of the story convincingly, whilst coming off as endearingly John Carpenter-esque.
Cinematographer Lowell A. Meyer paints a comically sunny cinematic experience that deviously brings out the contrast with both the world and the inner turmoil of the characters. In fact, the colour scheme is so well-done, that the implementation of it manages to add to the anarchic tone of the storytelling as well as add to the progression of the characterizations; particularly in the case of Jill and her downward spiral.
There’s more to go on about “Greener Grass”, but the only way to truly understand the world of it is to see the film. One of the funniest comedies of 2019, the film is sure to be a cult classic. Brace yourself.
Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival. The film will be released in selected theatres and On Demand on the 18th October, 2019 (USA) and 22nd November, 2019 (United Kingdom).