On paper, Greener Grass, the new film being released by IFC Midnight, is another comedy tackling the absurdity of suburban living. However, as audiences can see in the film’s trailer, the film from writer/directors Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe takes those conventions and turns them up a notch.
“We’re Midwestern middle children and we found developing together over the years that we both loved exploring the drama in the mundane — especially in a domestic suburban setting,” DeBoer says. So the pair wrote Greener Grass with the idea of “exploring the extremes of polite behavior.”
The film started as a short that ended up getting special recognition at SXSW in 2016. Expanding it into a feature consisted of, as Luebbe explained, asking “What do people wear in this world? How do people behave? What’re the waiters like? What is the supermarket like?” In the end, the pair, who also are the stars of both the short and the film, worked with their production designer Leigh Poindexter and their costume designer Lauren Oppelt to make things more colorful and heightened to suit their extreme characters.
Achieving that also involved casting Beck Bennett to play DeBoer’s spouse in the film. Bennett tells EW that when it comes to choosing what roles to take on during his Saturday Night Live summer hiatus, “It’s really about figuring out what’s going to be worth my time because I really value my time off.” The unorthodox husband role was trippy for him to act out right before he was set to get married, but he accepted it after reading the “unique, funny, and weird” script and receiving a sweet email from DeBoer explaining why he was right for the part.
There is a Hollywood adage that says never to work with children or animals, which DeBoer and Luebbe clearly ignored making Greener Grass given how the film prominently features both. DeBoer and Luebbe work with babies often enough to have a special pro-tip for filmmakers: “Find babies that are the youngest children in a very big family because they’re very used to chaos going on around them,” explains DeBoer. “They don’t mind loud noises or different people holding them. They’re pretty chill,” adds Luebbe. In terms of animals though, the dog they feature was a seven-month-old puppy that Bennett says had an energy level “just off the wall.”
DeBoer and Luebbe refer to Bennett as the puppy whisperer after working with him and the dog, but Bennett explains making the scene work required him and the directors to “figure out how to trick the dog into doing what we wanted him to do, and trying different squeaky toys and treats, and cooking bacon so that he would respond better and we could reward him.”
In the end, everyone had so much fun making the film that DeBoer is thinking about expanding the Greener Grass cinematic universe. “Can you imagine a Greener Grass workplace comedy or a Greener Grass hospital show?” “We’re never going to do anything else now,” jokes Luebbe.
Greener Grass opens at IFC Center in New York and is available on VOD Oct. 18.
Watch the exclusive trailer above.