Soccer Mommies and Kids With Knives
By KKUURRTT and Tex Gresham
Greener Grass is a dark absurdist comedy film directed by Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, who also star as friends in a suburban hellscape of smiles and politeness. In the film, Jill and Lisa “mistakenly” kiss each other’s husbands, exchange children and houses, birth soccer balls, learn the difficulties of raising a son who is also a golden retriever, smile fakely, and battle to maintain social status amidst love, separation, and mental breakdowns. Others have called it Desperate Housewives by way of David Lynch—but it’s more like David Lynch by way of Desperate Housewives. This 100-minute indie is available to stream on Hulu and is one of the weirdest, funniest, most surreal films you’ll set your eyes, ears, and brain on. Maybe don’t watch if you live in an idyllic cul-de-sac and have a pool. Could hit too close to home.
KKUURRTT: You go ahead and go first. Start this.
TEX: No no… After you.
K: I insist.
T: I never go first.
K: It’s a pretty film.
T: Yeah, sure.
K: Like it’s got colors and cinematography —
T: So this was adapted from a short film. Did you watch that?
K: I tried, but I think I just watched another short film called “Greener Grass” that was completely unrelated. Not sure though. The film is so weird that if it took a 2000% degree departure I wouldn’t be surprised.
T: The short film is literally the first ten minutes of the actual movie. So it’s almost redundant. But you can see where the jokes and seeds germinated from.
K: Oh okay, then no. It was about seeds germinating though ironically.
T: It’s kind of awkward to watch the short after seeing the film because the jokes aren’t as strong in the short and in the film they’re firing on all comedy cylinders.
K: As I always say—writing is rewriting. Have you heard the phrase “platitude?”
T: No, but I am familiar with the word “posterity.”
K: Hmmm okay well this has been another edition of “Mumbo Jumbo.” You can follow our social media at @wwwkurtcom and @thatsqueakypig.
T: All I want to do is quote jokes from the movie to you and confuse everyone who hasn’t seen the movie.
K: It’s hard to talk about a straight-up comedy without just rehashing my favorite moments.
T: The restaurant scene.
K: The restaurant scene!
T: “I brought you a Mexican dip.” “Seven layer?” “…it’s only five.” “Just… put it on the floor.”
K: “I think I prefer it.” “To swimming in chlorine?” “No! To regular water. I mean it’s delicious, right?”
T: That bit where Jill’s husband (played brilliantly by Beck Bennett) makes oxygenated, filtered pool water and drinks nothing but that is carried through so perfectly until the end of the movie. Carrying that jug around, pulling it out at the restaurant, making “popsicles” out of it. Perfectly mirrors the dumbass obsessions of suburban dads—stereo equipment, model trains, vintage porno.
K: The film is simultaneously impossible and precise. It takes the ideas of how people think they are supposed to behave in suburbia and ratchets them up like technicolor. Which is only matched by the color palette the film is gorgeously shot with (see I brought it back).
T: And takes the fears of ending up as one of those Stepford citizens of suburbia and injects that paranoia with fearthanphetamine & LSD-69—this toxic mix that’s again, terrifying and so absurd that you giggle almost constantly around the discomfort.
K: The movie is chock full of jokes. We’ve wasted most of this writing session referencing moments that made us shriek with delight. These two women, Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, playing Jill and Lisa respectively in the film, both come from the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre, so they are as experienced as any in the fine (f)art of making people laugh. That being said, why does it feel so astonishing to see something with this many clear and direct punchlines? It feels like Airplane for the truly disturbed. There is no caution for plot. Anything is possible, like a sandbox of creativity where the only limitations are setting.
T: The clothesline for the plot is simple—two women navigate the struggles of being housewives. Which opens the door for ANY situation. Nothing feels out of place in this movie that makes no attempt at making anything feel safe or at home. Including the thing that happens to the son about halfway through the movie.
K: Lisa’s son? Who, after Dad (played brilliantly by Neil Casey) falls asleep on the couch and the television changes from Little House on the Prairie to Kids With Knives, becomes the poster-child for misplaced anger? Television truly having the effect on the youth of today that suburban housewives of our childhood feared. Or do you mean Julian? Who jumps into the pool and comes out as a Golden Retriever, and then spends the remainder of the film as a dog?
T: I meant the kid turning into the dog. Because even though the joke of the kid watching violent TV makes him violent immediately is funny, there’s SOME truth to its absurdity—you ever seen a kid who does nothing but play Call of Duty: Ground Control to Major Tom for like six hours? That fuckin kid is a goddamn menace. A kid like that bit my arm and broke skin because I wouldn’t give him the controller at the XBOX Series XÆA-12 (KYLE) demo station at Wal-Mart. But yeah so I was talking about the boy turning into a dog and everyone’s just okay with it—including me. I was like “Cool… The kid’s a dog now.” And when the dad says “Julian just got awesome” I feel bad for agreeing.
K: I mean the movie pretty more-or-less opens up with Jill offering her baby to Lisa at a soccer game. Lisa accepts, changes the baby’s name from Paige to Madison, and the rest of the community accepts this as a thing that just happens. Because in this world, this IS a thing that just happens. It’s refreshing to see a movie that’s not set on Earth as we know it. Judd Apatow (though I love him) ruined comedy for the past 15 goddamn years because everything has to be grounded in reality. I can’t think of another surreal comedy in recent memory outside of the scene where all of the anchormen battle in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. We live in a time where laughs have to come from truth. But why can’t that truth be skewed into a sense of unreality?
T: I’ve always and will always be partial to comedies that do not exist in this world. Because not only are we allowed to laugh harder when the rules of society don’t come into play, but sometimes the truths and the fears that drive these jokes hit harder because we digest them the same way we do dreams. Especially movies like this where the entire feel of it makes no attempt at situating anything outside of some subconscious place. There’s probably something Freudian in a man drinking pool water or a boy turning into a dog or a woman pretending to be pregnant with a soccer ball. Like—take Jill’s desperation to get her baby back (or to have any child at all). Couldn’t that point to something serious and heartbreaking, like the aftermath of a woman who has recently lost her child either in utero or during childbirth—or shortly after?
K: For sure. This movie presents this absurd portrayal of meek women as a satire of the patriarchy (word of the day everyone screams). There’s a moment early on, where Lisa stops at a four way stop sign and basically begs the other drivers to go before her, stating something along the lines that it couldn’t be her, she’s never first, it must be a mistake. Women with this kind of insecurity live in your neighborhood for certain. But the film plays the tragedy of them for laughter. It’s all unsettling though—like are we supposed to laugh or be horrified? This film is almost as much a horror movie as it is a comedy.
T: Exactly. Like, who the FUCK is that person who’s always watching Jill and giggling and being a creepy menacing peeping tom? Is that us? That’s probably the most unsettling, horrifying aspect of this movie—for me.
K: It’s me and you. They knew we’d be reviewing this film, pretending like we’re feminists. We get it. It’s funny, but we get it. Maybe it’s not so funny. Things not being funny is the joke.
T: Which is why I think we find each other hilarious. We’re not funny. Like at all.
K: To quote Bride of Frankenstein: “we shouldn’t exist.”
T: I thought that was from Weird Science.
SUDDENLY TEX TURNS INTO A DOG AND KKUURRTT TURNS INTO A SOCCER BALL.
T: Bark bark woof woof.
K: Roll roll rustle rustle and other soccer ball noises.
Greener Grass also stars Beck Bennett, Neil Casey, Julian Hilliard, Mary Holland, D’Arcy Carden, and Janicza Bravo. KKUURRTT and Tex are frequent collaborators. Together they host a postmodern film podcast with the same name as this column.
KKUURRTT is glad you read his thing. His novel Good at Drugs is forthcoming from Alien Buddha Press. He can be found on Twitter at @wwwkurtcom.
Tex Gresham is the author of Heck, Texas (Atlatl Press). His work has appeared in Hobart, F(r)iction, The Normal School, BOOTH, and Back Patio Press. He lives in Las Vegas with his partner and kid. He’s on Twitter as @thatsqueakypig and online at www.squeakypig.com.