Directors: Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe
Starring: Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe, Beck Bennett, and Neil Casey
Cinematographer: Lowell A. Meyer
Imagine a world of endless pleasantries, where everyone is aggressively nice, and the weird and unexplained are the norms. In Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe’s feature directorial debut, suburban life takes on a new look and feel, where everyone wears braces on their already-straight teeth, and the bizarre occurrences are just another day in suburbia. This hilarious stroll onto the other side demonstrates the downside of excessive civility and welcomes the extravagantly silly side of district mania. And it’s nothing short of hysterical.
Greener Grass, originally written as a short film of the same name, had its premiere at the 2019 Sundance film festival. There, the feature received a surge of accolades praising it for its comedy and willingness to reach levels of deranged humor. The story follows friends Jill and Lisa as they compete for the best suburban life within their neighborhoods. Jill, who is too nice for her own good, lets just about everyone benefit from her kindness- to her own ruin. Lisa, on the other hand, is the jealous best friend who gladly takes advantage of Jill’s generosity. Throughout the film, they become at odds with one another as Lisa slowly begins to take over Jill’s life, starting with baby Madison. But as they deal with the fallout and ruination of their friendship, they must decide what true happiness is for themselves.
In their feature debut, DeBoer and Luebbe bring a weirdness to the big screen unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Think Stepford Wives meets Pleasantville, where being nice is routine and rediscovering yourself means you’re an outcast. It’s a magnificent display of extremism and exaggeration within modern-day suburban culture. There’s the kind neighbor who everyone likes to take advantage of, and the honest friend who tends to share a little too much information. There’s even the nosy neighbor who can’t seem to keep out of everyone’s business. But together, these side characters make up a neighborhood that is incredibly fascinating and boisterous in the revel of their oddity. And despite having to question their sanity, they’re all so easy to like.
While DeBoer and Luebbe take a satirical approach towards revealing the extremes of suburban culture, they also pose the following question: what happens when politeness takes on a psychotic twist? It’s an interesting question to ask considering we all could do well with a little more amiability in the world. But what happens when it’s pushed to the brink of desperation, where it begins to feel excessively radical and comes as a means to people-please? According to Greener Grass, it leads to true misery.
On the surface, Greener Grass plays with these ideas of discomfort and misery within suburbia, but it goes above and beyond in brilliant ways. At the heart of the film lies a message about appreciating what we have while we have it. Of course, DeBoer and Luebbe opt for the farfetched depiction of these themes, but there’s a beautiful lesson to learn from the film’s core beyond its eccentricities. Even at its silliest, these moments of honesty are so easy to appreciate. And as a result the film is a delight, and it’s just downright hilarious.
Just as these themes are represented through its characters, Lowell A. Meyer’s cinematography joins in on the brilliance within the uniquely vibrant setting. The film contains flamboyantly bright colors to match the inhabitants’ personalities- giving off a psychedelic feel to pair with the deranged politeness. This aspect of the film is fascinating when you think about Jill’s character development. The striking color patterns never change even when the film further dives into the dark and twisted as Jill sets out to rediscover herself. But that’s what makes Greener Grass so stunning in color and concept. Even as we may set out to change ourselves, the world around us could be stuck in its ways.
One of the best dark comedies of the year, Greener Grass celebrates quirky and weird on a masterful level. Supported by a stellar cast that commits to the insanity, this clever and witty script is as crafty as satires come, and it’s certainly more than meets the eye. Even when it doesn’t rely on its humor, there are great messages embedded within the script regarding true happiness and where to find it… The grass might be greener on the other side after all.