"Greener Grass:" A Masterclass in Suburban Surrealism
On January 26th, 2019, the film Greener Grass premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah. Written and directed by Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebe, this unassuming picture stands as one of the most unique, entertaining, and perplexing films of the past decade. But what is it exactly that makes this movie so original? Let's find out...
Greener Grass is based off a previous short film directed by Paul Briganti. Like the feature film, it also includes DeBoer and Luebe as writers and actors. It tells the story of two stereotypical suburban soccer moms, Jill and Lisa who while being friends are also involved in a petty back and forth to determine who is better. Frenemies, if you will. Whether that be the better wife, mother, person, there is nothing Jill and Lisa won't be at each others' throats. While a movie about insane soccer moms would be entertaining enough, that's not where the craziness ends. Greener Grass uses what I like to call Bubblegum Surrealism. Think of David Lynch with a brighter color palette.
In the world of Greener Grass, people give away their children like presents, humans sporadically turn into dogs, golf-carts are the main mode of transportation, and everyone wears braces regardless of age. In addition to DeBoer and Luebe, the film also includes notable cast members such as D'Arcy Corden, and SNL alumni, Beck Bennett and Neil Casey.
When you think of surrealism, the first things that come to mind are probably David Lynch's eerie sound design, Alejandro Jodorowsky's maximalist religious allegories, or even a painting by René Magritte. What makes the surrealism of Greener Grass so insanely interesting is that it's so close to being like real life. Everything feels familiar yet slightly off. Where you'd expect to see a parking lot full of cars, you'll see one full of brightly colored golf-carts. Children will jump into swimming pools as humans and might come out as dogs. A woman can raise a soccer ball as her child without question, and couples will be affectionate with each other for up to five minutes before realizing they've been making out with the wrong spouse. At its core, Greener Grass exists to pick apart the overly manicured, artificial, suburban lifestyle. It almost feels the characters are toys in the dollhouse of a child who has no idea how the world works, with a splash of John Waters' sense of humor. Needless to say I loved every second of it.
In addition to being a masterlcass in surrealism, Greener Grass is also terminally funny, with a sense of humor that ranges from absurdist to dark. According to a user on Letterboxd: "whoever is responsible for coming up with the Beck Bennett pool water storyline deserves the nobel peace prize."
The sheer brilliance of Greener Grass is due to both creators, Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebe, you can tell how clear of a vision they had for the film. It's one thing to make a film, but to write, direct, and star in it takes an entirely different kind of drive and creativity. As a young woman who is about to start film school, it is both inspiring and refreshing to see a female directing duo that is capable of making a movie as concise and interesting as Greener Grass. I can't imagine it was easy to find a studio or the budget to get this project off the ground, which just makes the film that much more impressive,
Like any stand alone festival film by two first-time directors, Greener Grass did not exactly make a mint at the box office, which is a real shame. As audience members, we need to make sure we are giving our attention and money to films that don't just come from Disney or Marvel, because the diversity of film as a genre is what makes it so special and we can't let the industry be homogenized by franchises and reboots. To me, Greener Grass stands for what the future of film has to offer and needless to say, I can't wait to see what DeBoer and Luebe do next!