It’s been a strange week in terms of the movies that have been playing in theaters near the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Just this past weekend, “The Lighthouse” was given a wide-release, unveiling to audiences what is undoubtedly one of the most bizarre movies to hit the big screen in a long time. The events that occur in that film, in addition to its odd tone, made “The Lighthouse” an exhilaratingly unusual in-theater experience.
This Friday, however, a film called “Greener Grass” is opening at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, and it could unexpectedly supplant “The Lighthouse” as the most oddball film of the year.
“Greener Grass,” directed by Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, is set in an overly glossy suburban community in which literally every character drives a golf cart and has braces lining their teeth. Every resident in this nameless town is incredibly happy and high-spirited. They embrace everything that happens to them with open arms and they’ll do pretty much whatever they can to avoid conflict with one another. However, for some unspecified reason, there is a prominent sense of discomfort woven into the film.
There are two examples early on in “Greener Grass” that do a good job of summarizing the outlandish and uneasy tone of the movie.
Firstly, the film’s central character, Jill, gives her newborn daughter away on a whim. When in a casual conversation with her friend Lisa, Lisa compliments Jill and her child. Jill responds by offering the child to Lisa, meaning Lisa would become the mother to this little girl that isn’t even a year old. Lisa takes her up on her offer, and walks away from the conversation with another child to raise. Throughout this whole interaction, the two women are acting completely casual. They’re smiling and laughing with each other, and they don’t seem bothered in the slightest by their actions. Meanwhile, the audience is left sitting there, mystified by what just happened.
Secondly, the film features an extended opening credits sequence. The names of the directors, stars and producer all fade in and out of the screen, slowly informing the audience as to who all worked on this movie. That’s not too unusual, right? Well, not inherently, but the audience isn’t focusing on these names because behind the text is an extreme close-up of Jill’s mouth. Her lips are quivering the entire time, and she has a huge grin that exposes the intense white of her teeth and the braces that cling to them. The opening credits continue for what feels like an eternity, resulting in an incredibly uncomfortable experience. It does a good job of establishing the pure confusion that the audience will experience while watching the fever dream of a movie that “Greener Grass” is.
The rest of the film is a bombastic assault of random sequences and events that come completely out of nowhere and serve only to pile on to this lumbering mass of bewilderment. One child falls into a pool and turns into a dog for the rest of the film and none of the characters question it. Jill’s husband is maniacally obsessed with how clean the water in their swimming pool is, to the extent that he freezes it to make Popsicles for himself to eat because he loves the water so much. One woman puts a soccer ball under her shirt, and when it falls out, she and the community believe it to be a legitimate child of hers, making her a literal soccer mom. I could go on and on because nearly every scene in “Greener Grass” is some baffling sequence that makes absolutely no sense.
Yet in spite of all of this utter nonsense, “Greener Grass” is hilarious.
The film feels like a great “Saturday Night Live” skit that has been extended into a 90-minute comedy film (the inclusion of SNL’s Beck Bennett in the cast adds to this feeling). Even though I had no idea what was going on throughout the majority of this movie, I couldn’t stop laughing through most of it. It was an enjoyable movie to watch purely because of its absurdity.
Further adding to the film’s humor is how it is seemingly building to some big philosophical reveal towards the film’s conclusion, but the reveal never comes. There’s a point in the last act where the film takes a more serious turn, and it seems to be setting up some big plot twist that would turn the movie into a powerful philosophical or psychological metaphor. The real twist is that the twist never comes. The film just doubles down on its own nonsense, leaving the audience in complete disbelief as to what they just watched.
If there were to be a feature film made that was based on some awkward, hormonal middle-school student’s “SimCity” game, I imagine it would be something like “Greener Grass.” All of the generic soccer-mom characters are completely happy even though their lives are filled with random events that make no sense. This movie offers audiences nothing, but it does so in a funny way — which I guess makes it enjoyable. I’m honestly not sure. At the end of the day, “Greener Grass” provided a fun, though incredibly confusing, experience in the theater. It certainly makes an impact, which is a positive. I’m just still confused as to what it was exactly.