Greener Grass

Greener Grass opens with two women, Lisa (Dawn Luebbe) and Jill (Jocelyn DeBoer), sitting on the bleachers at a kids' soccer game. Lisa compliments Jill on her baby. In response, Jill gives the baby to Lisa – as in literally gives the child away. It's a startling moment that perfectly sets up the strangeness that is about to unfold. If you possess an appreciation for the absurd, there are big laughs throughout this wonderfully oddball enterprise.

Jill is married to Nick (Saturday Night Live's Beck Bennett), a man who prefers drinking pool water to tap water. Lisa is married to Dennis (Neil Casey), who doesn't really find it odd that their friend's baby is now theirs. Greener Grass uses this child-swap as the starting point for an examination of how the suburban moms subtly compete with each other. As Jill's life spirals into chaos, Lisa's rises to new heights.

It's tough to explain the surreal humor in the film without giving away the best jokes, which I won't do. What you need to know is that DeBoer and Luebbe – who also wrote and directed – point out the futility of “keeping up with the Joneses” by taking the concept to crazy places. This is a picture in which someone fakes a pregnancy in a hilariously bizarre fashion, and someone else spontaneously turns into something non-human at another point. Much of the humor comes from the fact that the characters see nothing wrong with any of the inexplicable things occurring around them. They're all too focused on wanting what someone else has, or measuring up their status against the status of others.

Pulling off absurdist comedy requires a delicate touch, and Greener Grass has it. The situations are greatly exaggerated, but never off-puttingly so. They all serve a clear purpose in skewering the concept of suburban competitiveness. And as kooky as the characters are, the actors give them a measure of humanity. We laugh at what they say or do, while still recognizing that the emotions they experience are real to them. Because the tone is so spot-on, the laughs register even harder.

The world of Greener Grass is brought to life via some of the best production design of the year. Spring colors are the only ones used for home décor. Jill, Lisa, Nick, and Dennis dress exclusively in pink and blue. Everything is familiar, yet distinctly a little bit off. The visual style helps to place the story's events a step away from reality, so the wild happenings seem plausible in this alternate environment. You won't find a single shot that isn't eye-popping.

Greener Grass is a total original. Other movies have satirized suburbia. None have done it with the panache of this one. I howled with laughter from start to finish.

out of four

Greener Grass is unrated, but contains some adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.