Greener Grass Review
Fans of the first two series of Twin Peaks will no doubt remember the tacky TV show watched by the inhabitants of the suburban Washington town. Invitation to Love played in the background of a handful of scenes riffing on cheap daytime soaps of the time such as Santa Barbara and Days of Our Lives (which is somehow still going), with the melodramatic plots given a special Lynchian twist.
While it never reappeared in the 2017 revival, it now seems to have been resurrected in a new, brightly coloured guise as Greener Grass, a dark satire starring, written and directed by Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe. We are taken on a deep dive through the looking glass into a surreal world suffocated by soft focus lenses and identically clothed adults and children. A place beyond the pine trees, cherry pies and demonic possessions into the dark recesses of the pursuit of happiness.
Greener Grass started life as a short back in 2015 with intentions to turn it into a TV series, which can still be seen in its episodic structure. It arrives at a time when the vapidity of films like Vivarium suggest our long-running obsession with the perverseness of suburbia night finally have run its course. DeBoer and Luebbe turn those assumptions on their head with the creation of a peculiar realm filled with passive-aggressive relationships straining every last muscle to keep up appearances.
While no name is given to the location, it remains an intensely recognisable version of suburbia as seen through the eyes of John Waters. We’re introduced to middle-aged mothers Jill (DeBoer) and Lisa (Luebbe) chatting away as they watch their sons play in a local football match. The thin veneer covering their friendship (and everyone else’s in the town) doesn’t prevent Jill blithely giving her newborn baby to Lisa as if sharing a sandwich from her lunchbox. If the day-glo aesthetic and fuzzy lens filter left you uncertain about what you are watching, this is a moment that sets the tone for everything that follows.
This is a place where the sun always shines and everything exists within a bubble, so much so that getting around in golf carts serves all their transport needs. Elsewhere, children spontaneously transform into animals, school children sing-a-long to their teacher’s cheery nursey rhyme about the massacre of her family and raising a football as a child is perfectly normal (the Kids With Knives TV show also needs to be made). Once you embrace the oddities of this beguiling neighbourhood there is a lot to enjoy, but whether you are on-board or not, DeBoer and Luebbe resolutely stick to their guns to poke fun at the extremities of the middle class and all their peculiarities.
Greener Grass also works as an enjoyable dig in the ribs of those trapped within the confines of woke social media, where fear of giving offensive may do wonderful things for your online brand but invariably eats away at you from the inside. In this case Jill is the one experiencing an existential crisis as her life gradually falls apart while those around her barely seem to notice or care at all. Not that the film allows much room for us to be concerned about the emotional state of the characters, but DeBoer portrays Jill’s frailties with the right balance of naivety, uncertainty and internalised panic.
There’s a limit to how much anyone can take of this sort of relentless quirkiness and the runtime is pitched at just the right length to avoid damaging fatigue. While the on-the-nose social commentary never wavers and not everything works, there is a wonderful commitment to making a comedy unlike any other you’ll see this or any other year. Maybe if the TV series this was always intended to be ever came to fruition DeBoer and Luebbe would have the time and space needed to expand their characters further. But this candy-coloured nightmare will have to suffice for now and it’s an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.