Living in the ‘burbs is like torture. But then what’s living in the city like? Automatic death?
Troubled teenager Dean Stiffle (Jamie Bell) lives in what is your typical, slice-of-life, suburban town: Everybody’s happy, always smiling, on some sort of medication, and don’t have anything to worry about whatsoever, except for maybe being perceived as “less fashionable” from their neighbors. That said, underneath this whole facade, there’s a darkness lurking in the background; a darkness that shows its ugly head when Dean’s best-friend kills himself. The reason why, or just who the hell this kid was is totally irrelevant, the fact of the matter is that it happened, and now people know that there is something to worry about out there in the world, but to these kids, the only thing that matters is getting their fix of drugs and money. That’s why when Dean is bullied into getting his best-friend’s drug-stash for a group of bullies, he isn’t surprised since everybody’s so dull and boring as it is, however, ugliness starts to show up when the Mayor’s soon-to-be-step-son gets kidnapped by these bullies, leaving Dean with no choice but to have to go through and get the stash. But not everything is what it seems to be in upper-class suburbia.
Whenever there’s a movie that has to do with the suburbs, you always know what to expect: Angst and anger. Basically, those two words can go hand-in-hand, but with this movie, it somehow seems to be two different things that, like the movie itself, don’t really come together all that well in the end, yet, work well when they’re just doing their own thing. It’s sort of weird to explain, so be careful of this review because it may dive into some huge “rants”, and if that’s the case, I apologize ahead of time. However, I think you know what you’re getting yourself into when you type in “dtmmr.com” on your web browser, so why warn? Let’s just get on with it!
As I was alluding to not too long ago (5 seconds ago, actually), the movie has two points it’s trying to make about suburbia: 1.) being apart of it sucks, and 2.) the parents don’t listen to their kids, and vice-versa. Both points have been made many, many times in other, and sometimes, better movies before, but here, I was slightly intrigued by where it went with its material. It shows you not only how the world can feel like it’s closing in on you sometimes when you’re at your lowest-peak, but how nobody fully seems to “get” just where the hell you’re coming from. I know this is all coming off like some bad speech written for Emo Night, but it’s the truth. When things are so awful and shitty, sometimes, they just get worse, and it seems like nobody cares about that fact, or wants to do anything about it.
That’s why the movie sort of struck a chord with me. Not only was this kid’s story of being the outcast, to being the same person pretty interesting that I’m surprised the movie went with, but because it gave us a glimpse at all the characters here. Not just Dean, but his family, and other’s families as well. Some are more fucked-up than others; while others are just as normal and easy-going as they are perceived as. The movie obviously knows who it’s making fun of, and who it’s in favor of, and it works well if you get the type of satirical humor it constantly throws at you.
However, like I said before, the movie doesn’t come together so well at the end because you still realize that there’s a plot here that needs to be told in an effective, compelling way that makes you give a hoot about what could possibly happen to these characters; and you just don’t get that. Instead, you get a half-assed attempt at a thriller with kids, that makes you feel like you’re watching a Larry Clark movie, minus all of the adolescents taking part in drinking, sex, drugs, and all sorts of other countless acts of debauchery. And in case you couldn’t tell, that’s a bad thing since those are what usually keep those types of movies going. As for this one, I felt like they needed a little something more to spice up this material and get it to be more than just a thought-piece on being young and living in the suburbs, but sadly, it just stayed that way.
Like I said though, had great discussion-points it brought up more than a handful of times, but yet, couldn’t go any further with them because it had an actual-plot that brought it all down.
If anything, what kept this movie alive, especially by the very end, was the amazing ensemble this movie had on-display. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that’s why I was so intrigued by this movie in the first place! Jamie Bell leads the film as Derrick, and gives us a nice glimpse at an outcast who isn’t an outcast because he’s weird, it’s just because he isn’t narrow-minded like everybody else and he knows it, hence why everybody calls him meanie-weanie names like “loser”, “freak”, and “fag”. You know, the typical teenager defense-mechanisms. While Derrick was an interesting enough character to have a whole movie revolve around just him, his mind, and his inner-most intimate thoughts, the movie gives him this crappy-plot that never goes anywhere with itself, nor with him. Bell does what he can with his Yank accent, but in the end, he just feels like a wasted piece of talent that could have done so much more, had the movie decided to get real up close and personal with its lead character.
Even the adults could have gotten more attention and I would have been happy, although, I do have to say that they’re mainly aided by a bunch of great actors doing what they do best: Work shop. Allison Janney plays Derrick’s mom who feels like she wants so much more with her life than just constantly cooking, cleaning, and caring for the house, and you see that come out more than a couple of times, all to great-effect because it’s Allison Janney we’re talking about here; William Finchter plays Derrick’s pretentious, deuchy therapist dad that constantly thinks that pills are the only way to get past your problems, and does well, especially since he didn’t creep me out once here; Ralph Fiennes plays the Mayor of the town who seems to be a little “out-there” in terms of his thought-process and it’s pretty interesting to watch at times, even though the movie uses him too much as a crutch for getting its point across; Glenn Close plays the mother of the boy who committed suicide, and does it so well because it’s almost as if she’s a Stepford Wife, just trying to let everybody know she’s all fine and perfect on the outside, but on in the inside, she’s absolutely dying a slow and painful death; and I’m always down for a nice shot of Carrie-Anne Moss in a bikini. I mean, hell, why not?!?! There’s plenty more in this cast where that came from, but I think you get the point: They aren’t the problem, it’s the script that they’re working with.
Consensus: Material like this has been developed before, and while The Chumscrubber attempts to make some of those messages and points stick in our minds, it only gets bogged-down by an all-too-conventional plot-line that brings nothing new to the table in terms of originality, but doesn’t really mesh well with what the movie as a whole is trying to say.
5.5 / 10 = Rental!!