The opening scene of Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe’s “Greener Grass” gives you a good indication of what you’re in for. Suburban frenemies Jill (DeBoer) and Lisa (Luebbe) sit in the bleachers watching their kids play soccer. Jill holds her newborn daughter as Lisa gushes over how cute she is. “You can have her! She’s great.” Jill cheeps as if offering her a stick of gum. After all, it’s the polite thing to do, right? Just as jolting, Lisa actually accepts but with a slight hesitation. “I’ve been her mom since birth,” Jill assures her. “She just has to get used to you.”
That’s a good taste test for the kind of surrealist nuttiness “Greener Grass” throws at you. It’s an utterly batty satire of suburban life and soccer mom culture. At the same time it takes some sharp pokes at competitive parenting and some hilarious jabs at postmodernist absurdity. But most surprising is its bite which doesn’t really come into focus until the final 15 minutes or so.
DeBoer and Luebbe are not only co-stars, but co-writers and co-directors. In their unhinged suburbia everything (and I do mean everything) is about appearances. For these characters living itself is a performance art and the entire neighborhood is vying for the better performance. It’s a place where everyone drives golf carts instead of cars, have braces on already perfect teeth, and where underwear can pass as a neck scarf. Even wackier, a kid can turn into a Golden Retriever and a mother can give birth to a soccer ball no questions asked.
Amid the steady haze of disingenuous smiles, passive-aggressive politeness and pastel fashion is an almost relentless barrage of gags and scenes that resemble comedy sketches. It also has its share of confounding plot twists, but you just go with them mainly because of the crazy foundation that has already be laid. From the very start the movie makes clear that ‘anything goes’ so we’re pretty much prepped for whatever DeBoer and Luebbe throws at us.
Topping it off are some game comic performances from a cast firmly committed to the goofy premise. DeBoer and Luebbe have a hysterical chemistry, playing off each other with deadpan precision. Beck Bennett and Neil Casey are hoots playing their husbands – submissive, spacey and firmly rooted in the movie’s absurdism.
“Greener Grass” runs the risk of being too over-the-top for some. And if you aren’t into its unique and persistent sense of humor, this is a movie that will probably test your patience. There’s not much in terms of plot, but it moves at a snappy pace and features much of what I look for in good satire. I laughed a lot following these shallow, dim-witted rivals amid a sea of suburban superficiality. And after hearing of a movie-loving friend’s experience, now I want to show it to other people just to see how weirded out they get.
VERDICT – 4 STARS