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  Greener Grass Bitchin' In The Dream Kitchen
Year: 2019
Director: Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe
Stars: Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe, Beck Bennett, Neil Casey, Mary Holland, D'Arcy Carden, Julian Hillard, Janicza Bravo, Dot-Marie Jones, Asher Miles Fallica, Lauren Adams, John Milhiser, Santina Muha, Mike Scollins, Jim Cummings, Beth Appel, Ammie Masterson
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The setting is suburbia, where the most important thing for the mothers there is to ensure their little darlings can excel at school and at leisure in equal amounts. Jill (Jocelyn DeBoer) is watching her young son Julian (Julian Hilliard) playing soccer, and dismayed to see him act up when he is nudged by a fellow competitor, but this prompts her to ask her best friend Lisa (Dawn Luebbe) if she would like to look after her new baby. Lisa is delighted at the suggestion, and takes the tot off her hands, and besides, it takes their minds off the news that one of the housewives in their neighbourhood has been murdered, because who wants to think about that too long, right? But the seeds of unrest are sown...

Greener Grass was the brainchild of two members of the Upright Citizens Brigade, a comedy troupe from Chicago whose most famous alumnus is Amy Poehler. In a way, the duo's film was a twisted take on her sitcom Parks and Recreation, in that it spoofed an idealised view of American culture, but DeBoer and Luebbe were a lot less goodnatured with their skewering of their home nation than anything seen on television. Twin Peaks would be another comparison to make, yet that did not quite fit either: maybe more accuracy would be observed in the introductory few minutes of David Lynch's Blue Velvet, an exquisitely quaint rendering of a smalltown that is so perfect it becomes unnerving.

Then again, given the savagery of the vision lurking beneath that idealised lifestyle, a lifestyle that is idealised by the characters rather than the audience, it could be that John Waters' Polyester had been closely examined, yet even then there was a distinct horror movie flavour to this, no matter how laugh out loud it frequently was. You know how you get films where you spend the whole running time wondering what it reminded you of and you were unable to precisely pin it down? Greener Grass was one of those, as much a realisation that Douglas Sirk's fifties melodramas were a source of enormous unease as it was a Rainer Werner Fassbinder depiction of precisely that creeping disquiet.

Even so, you could make analogies till the cows came home, it was that kind of experience, but all the references and allusions in the world were not going to craft a satisfying comedy, if indeed this was supposed to be as funny as it initially appeared. As directors, they concocted an atmosphere that would be cosy except we as an audience could notice where there were things going horribly wrong that the denizens of this town accept or ignore. Imagine going about the day and everyone smiles politely at you, but then twig that they all have orthodontic braces on their teeth, despite not appearing to need such treatment. It could be a gnomic commentary on the vagaries of fashion or a more serious highlighting of the dangers of unthinking conformity here, but one thing was for sure, it was weird.

Jill seems to be almost unconsciously aware that all is not right in this community, and her impulses are telling her to struggle out of the straitjacket it has wrapped her up in. Often in the film she is almost on the brink of a road to Damascus moment, where she will wake up to the absurdities around her and become a prophet of change, but she never quite does, indicating the suffocating nature of the romanticised normality that fuels the American Dream, be that in politics or pop culture or even motherhood. Downright bizarre occurrences will crop up every five minutes, from Jill's husband taking a liking to drinking the water from their swimming pool, to Lisa giving birth to a soccer ball, to Julian transforming into a dog which everyone is too polite to protest about. It was true that these were more a series of episodes you would imagine an improv troupe would riff on rather than a proper narrative, but with that misgiving in mind, the creators were on to something with their encapsulation of the disturbing, all too modern suspicion that everyone had gone utterly crazy. And it looked fantastic. Excellent music by Samuel Nobles.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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