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Review: ‘Greener Grass’ is one of the year’s weirdest comedies

Dawn Luebbe, Neil Casey, Jocelyn DeBoer, Beck Bennett, John Schmedes and Mary Holland, ‘Greener Grass’
Dawn Luebbe, from left, Neil Casey, Jocelyn DeBoer, Beck Bennett, John Schmedes and Mary Holland in the movie “Greener Grass.”
(IFC Films)

“Greener Grass” is the kind of comedy that begins with one suburban mother cheerfully handing over her newborn baby to another mom, to keep, on the sidelines of a kids soccer match. And it only gets more surreal from there. In other words, it’s not quite like any, or at least very many, other comedies you’ve seen before.

Something along the lines of John Waters rebooting “Desperate Housewives” as a “Tim & Eric"-style Adult Swim sketch series might give you an idea of the aggressively strange tone writer-director-stars Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe bring to their debut feature.

DeBoer’s Jill is the one who hands over her baby girl, Madison, to frenemy neighbor Lisa (Luebbe), and spends the next 90-plus minutes filled with a mix of regret, resignation and downright panic. But Lisa changing the girl’s name to Paige and proudly raising her as her own is only the beginning of the deadpan twists the filmmakers layer into this unpredictable social satire.

The anonymous suburb where “Greener Grass” unfolds is a place where residents drive golf carts instead of cars, children randomly transform into pets, husbands get hooked on drinking pool water, a woman divorces her husband just because her friends tell her to, and everyone lives in fear of a maniacal stalker who murdered a grocery clerk. (It was actually filmed in Peachtree City, Ga.)

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Beck Bennett goes for a dip in a swimming pool in “Greener Grass.”
Beck Bennett goes for a dip in “Greener Grass.”
(IFC Films)

Not every joke lands, and despite an admirable storytelling momentum the characters inevitably get lost underneath all the quirkiness. But if the film is ultimately a triumph of silliness over substance (it’s difficult to discern if it’s really about anything, beyond the obvious implications of its title), it’s also far more creative and memorable than the middling comedies we typically see from major Hollywood studios.

With a strong supporting cast including Beck Bennett (“Saturday Night Live”) and D’Arcy Carden (“The Good Place”), and unusually polished production values (DeBoer and Luebbe have an eye for visuals that are simultaneously dreamy and repulsive), “Greener Grass” is a movie that’s not only immediately destined for cult status — it’s the rare movie that truly earns it.

'Greener Grass'
Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Playing: Nuart Theater, Los Angeles; also available on demand

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