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LIFF 2019: Greener Grass


Soccer Mums exchanging their children, brace-wearing adults, a football treated like a real baby, etc; one thing is sure, you won’t have seen many films like Greener Grass. Written and directed by (and also starring) Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, this film pushes to the extreme the importance of  appearances in the American suburbs. 

The world of Greener Grass is a feast for the eyes. Everyone’s appearance is flawless apart from the braces on their teeth, homes are like doll’s houses, there are no cars, they all travel around in little golf carts, making the town feel like a giant country club. I particularly enjoyed all the awkward, and vintage-styme commercials, game shows and soap operas that the characters watch on their TVs.

When Lisa (Dawn Luebbe) tells Jill (Jocelyn DeBoer) that her baby is cute, Jill does the polite thing and gives her own daughter to her friend. No one living in their pastel-coloured town is surprised by this, not even the baby’s father. This is the kind of absurd situation that constantly happens in this hilarious satirical comedy. Many American classics such as The Stepford Wives, American Beauty, and Edward Sissorhands have had similar concepts but unlike those films, Greener Grass forgoes all logic and uses absurdity to reveal the silliness of society.

The absurd humour is expressed through sets and costumes but also the dialogue. It is impossible to guess what will be said next – and that is refreshing. The lines are brought to life beautifully by the actors, playing the awkwardness and and repressed feelings of the characters in a way that creates very odd yet satisfying interactions.

There is a semblance of a plot with a murder mystery in the town, but it never leads to anything important and distracts from the actual force of the film which lies entirely in the world it conjures up. The overall pace of the story feels fragmented at times, more like a series of sketches set in an interesting world than an actual narrative-driven film. The cinematography and editing reflect that inconsistency, seeming to alternate between different styles. At times I felt like I was watching a 70s horror film, at others a smooth modern advertisement. That uncertainty reflects my basic problem with Greener Grass. It never completely decides what it is.

Greener Grass was originally an award-winning short film and I do feel that this is an extended version of a short film, rather than a story that stands on its own. For this reason I think Stepford Wives and Edward Sissorhand will stand the test of time better. All the same, I can’t deny that Greener Grass offers a unique, enjoyable experience that some will love.

Leeds International Film Festival is playing until the 21st of November:https://www.leedsfilm.com/film-festivals/leeds-international-film-festival/liff-2019-programme/