Tuesday, December 03, 2019

IFFBoston 2019.232: Greener Grass

An online acquaintance tweeted about how disappointed she was that the theater was awful quiet for this to the point where she felt uncomfortable laughing as hard as she did, and I have been there. Not for this movie - I was a couple rows behind Alex and very much one of the folks not laughing very often, instead dealing with the sinking feeling of dread that comes when, two minutes in, the movie has announced that it is going to be very eccentric, I'm not feeling it, and there's another hour and a half to go.

It was kind of a tough situation, though - Sunday late shows aren't often packed houses, and it was snowing just enough that people might be staying in, so even when a joke did land, the laughter wasn't ever going to fill the Brattle, and maybe that made it feel less well-received than it actually was. I don't know if it filled the room at IFFBoston this spring, but I'll bet that was a different experience, as is seeing it at home where your laughter won't feel small.

Anyway, it's got one more night at the Brattle (tonight, 3 December 2019). You may be one of its people, even if I'm not!

Greener Grass

* * (out of four)
Seen 1 December 2019 in the Brattle Theatre (special engagement, DCP)

If you can damn something with faint praise, then you can also praise it with uncertain damnation, and sometimes you must, because what else can you do for a comedy that only sporadically works for you and is so completely absurdist as to resist being pulled apart and examined? Greener Grass is weird and most definitely not to everyone's taste but has just enough bits that really work that I can't help but try to figure out whether it will work for someone who likes that sort of comedy or if it's just bad.

The film takes place in a bright-colored suburb where everybody drives golf carts and all the adults have braces, and though there's a killer on the loose, everyone's pretty sure it's the bagger from the grocery store and that weirdly makes it feel like a tight-knit neighborhood. Jill (Jacelyn DeBoer) and Lisa (Dawn Luebbe) are best friends, with sons Julian (Julian Hilliard) and Bob (Asher Miles Fallica) in the same second-grade class. The boys are playing soccer when Jill gives Lisa her baby, which is more than a bit odd to their husbands Nick (Beck Bennett) and Dennis (Neil Casey) - this is really the sort of thing they should talk about! But they're still all friends, and that's what's important.

It's kind of horrible to be two minutes into a 95-minute movie and realize that it does not seem to be your thing at all. Sure, you can just shut it off at home and this is not the sort of thing that necessarily sells out a theater, so you could probably bail, but there's a good chance that if you spent money on this movie (which hopefully has not been given a deceptively generic and sensible poster or bit of art to identify it), you're not the type to give up easily. Still, it's potentially difficult going from that first moment when Jill just gives Lisa her baby like that's a totally believable thing to do, and there are a lot of times when it's fair to wonder if creators Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe (who produce, write, direct, and star in the film) have put together an hour and a half of private, grotesque jokes into the sort of movie that inspires narratives about the emperor having no clothes, like they've tricked people into assuming that something that screwed-up must be genius.

Full review at EFilmCritic

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