Envision an alternate reality where David Lynch decided to direct the “Barbie” movie and you’ll see a nightmarishly clear picture of what to expect from “Greener Grass,” an ultra-farcical deconstruction of the suburban upper-middle class in the United States. If you wanted to save time and energy, you could merely label the directorial debut from Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe as “strange” or perhaps “bizarre.” But in doing so, you would rob “Greener Grass” of the praise it rightfully deserves as one of the year’s finest gems.
Middle-aged mothers Jill and Lisa (played by DeBoer and Luebbe, respectively) live in a sun-covered suburb ripped straight out of a 60s sitcom where all the adults drive golf carts and wear braces. Yes, you read that right. Before the film can even showcase its throwback opening titles, the two women discuss the recent murder of a local yoga instructor just before Jill gives Lisa her baby. Again, you read that right. This baffling, seemingly random set-up catalyzes a visually driven, scathingly aggressive satire that seeks to make you giggle, laugh, and cringe simultaneously.
Above all else, “Greener Grass” will attract stylistic comparisons to countless contemporaries, all encumbered with their own colorful qualifiers (Jordan Peele meets ‘Willy Wonka,’ John Carpenter mixed with “I Love Lucy,” etc.), but DeBoer and Luebbe deserve the utmost praise for crafting a debut that champions self-assured direction and an unsettling atmosphere that can easily compete with these reputable forerunners. By adopting a countenance comparable to a long-lost Alan Resnick project, “Greener Grass” counts itself as a surefire hit for Adult Swim fans and advocates of surreal humor alike.
For all intents and purposes, any attempts at conjuring a traditional narrative slip into the backseat to make way for nonstop jokes in this technicolor fever dream. Although the abovementioned serial killer subplot functions as the framework used to support the weight of the film, “Greener Grass” could not care less about structure. While the film’s configuration can easily be compared to the highlight reel of a sketch comedy show, DeBoer and Luebbe ensure that their debut maintains its coherency throughout. Moreover, in place of conventional structure, the movie utilizes parody as an unwavering compass to navigate through its numerous storylines, confronting themes like materialism, apathetic parenting, divorce, and violent entertainment’s influence on the youth along the way.
Although Jill and Lisa may initially appear to be outlandish caricatures, their mannerisms, dialect, and social practices are not entirely out of place; if you grew up in suburbia, or currently live in this environment, the subtleties associated with the women’s interaction will hit close to home. Admirably, “Greener Grass” retains its passive-aggressive smile for the entire duration of its cautionary sermon, melding unabashed mockery with a slightly serious side-glance.
Granted, DeBoer and Luebbe fail to take into account that their sledgehammer approach to social critique grows tiresome at a rapid pace. Given its absence of realism and over-indulgence in the insane, “Greener Grass” holds more in common with a flamboyant funhouse than a fulfilling cinematic experience; the film packs the punch of an electrifying energy drink, but the comedown hits hard during the third act as the deprivation of emotional substance starts to take a toll. After you grow accustomed to the film’s eerie unpredictability and unadulterated goofiness, you cannot help but search for more, but “Greener Grass” lacks substance beneath its cotton candy exterior.
Nevertheless, DeBoer and Luebbe pull together a conclusion that ensures that the film’s bittersweet residue will stay on your tongue long enough to leave an impression. Counterbalancing a tongue-in-cheek treatise condemning the shallow obliviousness of the upper-middle class with niche comedic thrills, “Greener Grass” earns its reputation as a delightfully nauseating charmer that should be regarded as a salvia-covered tour de force for years to come. [B]