The Chumscrubber
dir. Posin
Opens Fri Aug 5
Various Theaters

The Chumscrubber strikes me as a film that writer/director Arie Posin has been working on since he was a teen. There are elements of the story that are naïve and over-dramatic, but regardless, Posin, a first-time feature film director, shows a lot of promise.

So let's start with the plot. Dean Stiffle, a grumpy teenager (Jamie Bell), lives in a perfect, Stepford Wives-style suburban neighborhood and has one friend--Troy, the town drug dealer (Josh Janowicz). One afternoon, Dean finds himself out of happy pills, runs over to Troy's house, and finds him hanging from the ceiling. While obviously freaked, Dean suppresses his emotions, leaving the dangling body for Troy's mom to discover.

The remainder of the film shows Dean's run-ins with his clueless parents, the law, and the mean kids in school (including a hilariously evil and smoking hot Justin Chatwin). Side-plots explore the demented, self-centered, insane neighbors, and also one woman (Carrie-Anne Moss) who's a slutty sicko trying to fuck her daughter's boyfriend. Basically, the film mines all the well-trodden stereotypes of detached, Prozac-ed suburbanites, but does a surprisingly great job at it. Characters like the town mayor (Ralph Fiennes) are amazing; Fiennes is totally going off the deep end, and his fiancée is too wedding-obsessed to notice.

Trying to explain all the compelling elements of Chumscrubber would be exhausting, but describing the film's flaws? That's easy. The suicide ends up having too much gravity and sadness attached to it in a film loaded with sharp, dark humor. Also, the parade of cardboard stereotypes is exhausting, even though proficient actors play them incredibly well. And the underlying theme that suburbs are just as fucked up, if not more so, than poor neighborhoods or backwoods towns is just played.

Complaints aside, though, fans of dark comedy should see this movie. In the characters' nuances, you'll see the phony personalities of people you know, the vindictive streaks of your friends, the childishness of your parents, and the sharp, creepily aware minds of kids. Some of the time Posin hits the nail on the head--but just as often, he doesn't.