Greener Grass – VIFF 2019 Review

A pair of antiseptic and ever-competing soccer moms chitchat on the bleachers as their kids chase and kick balls around the grassy sport’s field when Lisa (Dawn Luebbe) looks closer at her frenemy Jill (Jocelyn DeBoer) and exclaims through thinly veiled contempt: “Oh, my gosh, I didn’t even notice, you have a new baby!” By the end of their creatively clipped and arish exchange, Jill, almost as if on a whim, has given her baby, Madison, to Lisa, for keeps (only to show some regret later on, though mostly because she renamed her Paige).

This is the strangely surreal suburban hellscape of Greener Grass, a world of pastel-colors, intensely manicured-lawns, accidental spouse-swapping (everyone looks similar at just a cursory glance), overly friendly barbecues, pool parties, gross kissing and the odd murder scene.

Written and directed by co-stars DeBoer and Luebbe, Greener Grass is their debut and demands a demented frame of mind to fully appreciate its strange glamor. It plays out like the Stepford Wives as reimagined by John Waters, with the odd episode here and there unraveling like an enjoyably elaborate and overlong Mr. Show sketch. For instance, a popular TV show aimed at children, “Kids with Knives” upsets the neighbourhood parents every time it’s on, and it seems to be on an awful lot.

Jill and Lisa have been waging a passive-aggressive battle since forever, and Jill, now pregnant with a soccer ball, begins to suspect that Lisa has a more active war strategy on her mind, like perhaps moving into her home. In the periphery of all this, the town, wherein everyone drives around in day-glo colored golf carts by the way, is in a tizzy over the recent murder of yoga teacher, and the psycho suspect who so far has elluded capture.

Playing out with an episodic, shaggy dog style––one story arch involves a precocious child literally and inexplicably turning into an adorable golden retriever––Greener Grass often feels like a Twilight Zone/Desperate Housewives mashup. There just aren’t many if any films that are as side-splittingly silly and idiosyncratic as the fever dream that DeBoer and Luebbe have conjured up here.

The often ominous synthesizer score from Samuel Nobles gives Greener Grass the distinct vibe that some kind of holy evil is at play, giving this satirical, lysergic-tinted, kitsch-coated, and extremely off-center film yet another layer to dig into. All the regressive elements and gut-busting affectations that oscillate around Jill and Lisa ensure that the film will be a cult classic, of that we’re absolutely certain. Is this a film for all tastes? Absolutely not. Is it a messed-up and gooey good time? You bet it is.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.