Greener Grass (Jocelyn DeBoer/Dawn Luebbe, 2019) 1 out of 4 stars.
A ludicrous, insane, and downright weird dark comedy, Greener Grass masquerades as a microcosm of suburban family life, but comes off more as an incoherent series of random, pointless scenes. Writers/directors Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe also co-star in the film as its two leads, Jill and Lisa. Jill and Lisa are two soccer moms living in a suburban neighborhood in which adults all wear braces, everyone seems to wear a distinct, bold color, and neighbors judge each other on just about everything. The “plot” of this film centers around Jill and Lisa competing against each other in every aspect of their lives, from husbands, to houses, to children. Everyone in this town is overly polite so as to not be considered “rude,” but are all passive aggressive and completely insincere, despite their outward politeness. The competition between the women heats up and it is clear that there will be a winner and a loser.
The one compliment I have to give this film is its cinematography and set design. Honestly, all technical aspects were phenomenal. There are many unique camera moves, a good sense of mise-en-scène, in terms of where characters are set up in a frame, and each set piece is well-done. For these aspects alone, I give the film 1 star. Unfortunately, that is the only star I can give this film. The performances, writing, and overall plot are not worthy of such great technical mastery. The performances aren’t awful, but it is apparent that everyone is in on the joke and knows how ridiculous the movie is, not taking the film too seriously, but not giving convincing performances, either. The writing and dialogue are also questionable. Many of the lines seem random and unnecessary, adding nothing to the plot, not even a laugh.
The story is incredibly incoherent and confusing. I understand that the film is going for an absurdist angle, but can we at least get some cohesion between scenes? The whole movie feels like a set of unconnected Saturday Night Live skits that just happen to be a lot less funny than the actual hit show. Perhaps this could also be attributed to the presence of some of SNL’s stars in the movie. This film is a full-length feature based on a short film that premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2016. Upon viewing, the short worked much better, but still felt like an SNL skit. So, a 15-minute-long SNL-like short film was expanded into an hour-and-a-half conundrum. Many scenes felt like they were made up on the spot, in a “Hey! What if we did this? That would be funny!” sort of way. Except it wasn’t. None of it was funny outside of a few grotesquely shocking commercials that appear on a TV.
Perhaps if I was a soccer mom living in suburbia, I might be able to make some sense of this film and see some satirical resemblances in it … but I think that’s even a stretch. While I could clearly see some of the points which the filmmakers were trying to make, the whole film was too bonkers … but not humorous enough … to work. The only place where the grass is greener is anywhere away from this unamusing glorified SNL skit.