Greener Grass ***

Soccer mom friction is taken to gleefully absurdist extremes in this loopy, pastel-hued portrait of suburban angst that marches to the beat of its own drum with such dogged commitment to its surreal dream logic that you'd have to be a humorless grouch to not fall under its off-kilter spell.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Yes, everybody's wearing braces. Yes, everybody's performing acts of profound silliness, all the time. But what initially stands out in the gauze-lensed suburbia of “Greener Grass” is the sea of pastels splashed across its widescreen compositions. Think 1980s John Waters directing an extended “Kids in the Hall” episode, then add a dash of Lynchian unease and the lushness of Douglas Sirk in his prime, only take out the melodrama and inject a generous dose of ruthless social satire. You with me so far?

Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, who wrote, directed and star in this improbably buoyant oddity, could have merely expanded their 2015 short by turning it into a series of skits haphazardly strung together, but what's particularly accomplished about their debut feature is that, no matter how nonsensical the scenarios become (and, hoo boy, do they ever), the filmmaking team is dead serious about crafting a sturdy narrative to support their jabs at these well-off folks unraveling inside their manicured homes.

We begin on a blindingly green soccer field, as Jill (DeBoer) and Lisa (Luebbe) cheer on their sons: meek, bespectacled Julian (Julian Hilliard) and aggressive go-getter Bob (Asher Miles Fallica), respectively. Julian is a wimpy disaster on the field, but the women's attention shifts to Jill's infant daughter Madison. Lisa is so taken with the tot that Jill does what every good neighbor ought to: offer to give her the child. “You can have her! She's great,” Jill chirps. Okay, joke's over, right? Not quite. Without missing a beat, Lisa accepts Jill's offer as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

From that head-scratching act of kindness, DeBoer and Luebbe peek into the women's domestic bliss, or lack thereof. Jill tries to shield Julian's fragility, which manifests itself in a weak bladder, from sitcom hubby Nick (Beck Bennett), who starts becoming obsessed with the oxigenated water in their new backyard pool. Meanwhile, Lisa is grappling with the reality that her marriage to Dennis (Neil Casey) has lost its spark. But not before both husbands get to kiss each other's wives, then realize everybody's forgotten who's married to whom. Cue the extreme closeups of lip locks, sticky saliva and all.

Think that's strange? “Greener Grass” is just getting warmed up, as if the team behind “Airplane!” and “Top Secret” helmed an episode of “Desperate Housewives.” A local yoga teacher has been murdered, making the residents of this aggressively sunny neighborhood where golf carts are the only mode of transportation be on their guards. Or so they tell themselves. They're too ensconced in their own bubble of banality to pay much mind to potential security threads. Cue the point-of-view shots, ostensibly of the killer at large, spying on the characters as if this were a slasher film.


But just when you think “Greener Grass” is becoming too comfortable with its intrinsic weirdness, it keeps springing ridiculous non sequiturs at a steady clip. It's clear DeBoer and Luebbe, who cut their teeth doing improv before making movies, have the chops to sustain this high-wire act, because most of the gags land. What makes them even more effective is the characters' matter-of-fact attitude, such as when Jill, Lisa and their spouses get on all fours and start scarfing the dinner their server accidentally spills on the restaurant floor. I mean, it can't go to waste, right?

The filmmakers' attention to the characters' arcs extends to the children. Julian, in particular, undergoes a rather confounding, utterly adorable transformation at the halfway mark. (I won't spoil it here, but fair warning, the trailer does.) Before that happens, though, DeBoer and Luebbe allow viewers to get to know these families, as well as mutual friend Kim Ann (a scene-stealing Mary Holland), a new divorcée whose twin boys give the directors a chance to indulge in a cleverly superfluous shout out to “The Shining.”

Despite all the jokes jostling for attention, “Greener Grass” never loses sight of Jill and her delayed maternal instinct, which takes her on a bruising journey that recalls the heroines in early John Waters movies (desperate living, indeed). It initially depicts the character's passive aggressive idle chatter as conversation filler, but as the movie chugs along, it's increasingly wielded like a weapon, with results that get under viewers' skin. It all leads to a final scene that hints at but doesn't quite spell out what this alternate universe might be. It's the right call in a movie that deals with suburban angst by slapping a big, wide, stupid grin on it. With old-school wire braces, of course.

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