Last night, I watched The Chumscrubber, a film I would highly recommend, although it is a little bit peculiar. I was originally attracted to it by a preview I saw on Google Video ages ago, and when I noticed it in a friend’s movie collection, I decided that it needed to be watched.
The basic premise of the film is that life is hell. It takes place in a suburban community which could be located anywhere in America: tract homes surrounded by lackluster flowers, identical kitchens with identical ideal American families. Of course, the film is about what lurks beneath these ideal families: the harsh reality of spouses that disagree, children who are ignored, and life as a young adult. Our lead character’s parents essentially ignore each other when they aren’t fighting. The husband is a pop psychologist who writes nauseating self help books, while the mother hocks a line of vitamins. Both parents ignore the kids: the protagonist wanders around doing essentially whatever he wants while his little brother plays video games all day.
The plot unfolds rapidly, quickly tearing apart the seams of the seemingly ideal community it takes place in. Teenage suicide, violence, pill popping, broken marriages, and kidnapping are all integral parts of the movie, which serves as an excellent indictment of modern society. The movie tells us through a series of wrenching and horrible scenes that parents ignore their children at a cost. It also outlines the seamy underbelly of suburbia brilliantly.
The Chumscrubber appears in the film as an external narrator, although he pops on television screens, posters, and video games inside the film as well. He acts like a Greek chorus, outlining the problems with the world we are observing through the film, but not always offering a direct solution. Society, the Chumscrubber tells us, is twisted and warped: whether or not it gets fixed is largely up to us. We live in a world where women use children and husbands like accessories, where people stoop to amazing levels to get ahead, where we ignore the bereaved and grieving, along with those who need help.
In many ways, the movie cuts to the heart of suburban fear: that children are running rampant, that society is collapsing, that behind blinds lurk unspeakable horror. But it is also a coming of age movie, about the choices we make and why we make them, the things that motivate us in high school. I felt sympathy with the characters at the same time that I wanted to beat them over the head for being so thoughtless and stupid.
“Don’t ignore me,” characters are constantly saying to each other, and sometimes it feels to society in general. Each character lives in a sort of fairy tale dream world, and these worlds collide in a Shakespearean ending which manages to be insane, tragic, and wildly funny. This may be one of the better films I’ve seen this year, which I realize isn’t saying much given the date, but I think you know what I mean.