"Of all the dramedies about suburbia's dark side, "The Chumscrubber" has to be the one... with the absolute worst title.
But fortunately almost everything else about the movie is good. Arie Posen's first full-length movie does manage to be jaded without being heartless, dark without being self-conscious. Instead it's morbidly funny -- few movies can make drugs, kidnapping and mental collapse seem so entertaining.
Dean (Jamie Bell) visits his drug-dealing pal Troy for some Prozac -- and finds Troy hanging from a noose. He simply walks out of the house, past a house-party full of adults. There's no point in telling them, because everyone around him is too preoccupied.
In the days that follow, Troy is tormented by his classmates, and by his psychoanalytical dad, who is trying to make him feel grief against his will. But things take a nasty turn when school thug Billy (Justin Chatwin) demands that Dean turn over all of Troy's drugs... which he doesn't have. So he kidnaps Dean's little brother... except he gets the wrong kid.
Instead, Billy has kidnapped the future stepson of the town mayor. Now Billy is threatening to kill the kid unless Dean turns over the drugs. Sooner or later, someone is going to go looking for him. Things come to a head at a wedding and a funeral -- fights will break out, confessions will be made, and the kidnapping erupts into violence that disrupts both the wedding and the funeral.
Normally mental breakdowns and kidnappings aren't funny at all, but Arie Posen manages to make them seem that way. "The Chumscrubber" is full of weird, frighteningly plausible events like wedding-obsessed Terri failing to notice that her son is missing, or the kidnapped Charlie swimming with his kidnappers.
Most of the movie is a buildup, with the various people running around in their little bubbles, oblivious to everybody else -- even to amoral teens kidnapping little kids. The dialogue is deliciously wry and warped ("I don't think you're crazy." "You know, there are several major book chains that would be willing to disagree with you on that point...").
With a movie this cynica, it's surprising that he final half hour is even a bit heartwarming. But it is, when Dean finally faces up to how he felt about Troy, talks to Troy's increasingly fragile mother, and karma catches up to certain people. And Posen manages it without losing that sense of twisted irony.
The cast of characters aren't quite stereotypes, but they're definitely offbeat -- the kindly seductress, the dolphin-obsessed mayor, the mom obsessed with a "perfect" family and a little brother who pours powdered pills into food. But the best one here is Bell -- his numb, prickly acting is excellent, and he is nothing short of brilliant when he finally breaks down in his bedroom -- hallucinating about Troy.
Dark, twisted and bizarre, "The Chumscrubber" is a truly hilarious dramedy about disconnected living. Just ignore that awful title."
Delicious Social Commentary
Gregory Capper | San Antonio, Texas | 11/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a dissonant high school senior living in the depths of suburbia, its understandable as to why this movie does not get across to everyone. They actually captured the atmosphere perfectly, if not with a bit of satiric exaggeration, which honestly is not very severe. The idea of a dull emotionless society of self indulgence and drugged up teens is the same world that I personally reside in, and the film takes a snapshot of it while adding fantastic acting and deep emotion, spliced with brilliant humor.
The first time I viewed this movie I caught it on television without seeing the beginning or title, and quickly became enveloped by its unique execution, forcing me to watch the entire film which I then fell in love with.
Donnie Darko, as mentioned as the benchmark in every review of this poor movie, is a terrible movie to compare this with. Darko, which has become an utter cliche among youth culture, contains far more of a metaphoric and plot driven story that largely acts out a finely tuned Christian symbolism, while The Chumscrubber is a satire of society's indulgence in present day suburbia.
Give it a watch, and if you don't feel anything as a result, it likely is not meant to appeal to you."
Finding The Realness In Unreality: A Suburban Fable
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 10/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Suburban malaise. Teen angst. The hopelessness and futility behind a happy and "normal" facade. The "Chumscrubber" is yet another in a long line of middle/upper class social satire flicks. And yet this one seems to be polarizing--some camps claim it to be brave and true while others decry that it tries too hard and rings false.
Well, I can see both points--but ultimately, I like in "Chumscrubber" what many were put off by. It has a genuinely offbeat tone, bizarre yet matter-of-fact plotting, and a surrealness about even the most mundane of events. I wouldn't claim it had a huge social significance as many of the more effusive reviewers do. The characters here are clearly characters--there is a disconnect from real people. But I think that works to the picture's advantage--this is a super-fictionalized setting. Yet there are moments of sheer emotion that break through and thus are more effective because of the unreality of the situations.
Those that know me might be confused at this point. Realness is an important commodity to me, but I guess I take "Chumscrubber" in the vein of an entertaining fable. And I was definitely entertained and intrigued by the film. The cast is super. Glenn Close, in an all too brief appearance, personifies emotional detachment and need at the same time. Ralph Fiennes is amusing fluttering around the edge of sanity. And Jamie Bell continues to be one of our more interesting performers--seemingly choosing in his roles to be an actor rather than a star.
There is much unpleasantness in "Chumscrubber" from suicide, drugs, kidnapping--yet I don't find it to be a particularly downbeat film. It does have an odd or different tone--but that's what stands out. As many reviewers are quick to point out--it's not "Donnie Darko." And they're right--but nor does it have to be to have value. This seems to be a love it or hate it proposition. I, for one, found a lot of merit, some insight and quite a bit of humor. KGHarris, 10/06."
It's FRUSTRATING when nobody listens
Chris Kennison | Jefferson City, Mo United States | 03/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Rarely am I affected by a movie these days like I was with THE CHUMSCRUBBER. Have you ever felt like you were talking and nobody was listening? Have you ever nodded your head as somebody told you a story, despite the fact that you were off on some other mind-induced adventure? We all walk through our lives with blinders on and single-minded self-indulgent goals and CHUMSCRUBBER explores this to the fullest.
After watching about 40 minutes of CHUMSCRUBBER, I felt myself getting frustrated and angry at the endless circle of things that... if only communicated... would have and could have been corrected in this movie. Not unlike the real world, everybody is off in their own worlds, not listening to the people around them. Only concerned about Me, Myself & I. The characters on film wouldn't be in near the mess they were if they just stopped and listened and communicated. The people wouldn't be feeling near the inner pain they were feeling.
I caught myself not liking the movie for making me feel this way. But then I smacked myself, understood why they did this and respected the movie for getting this emotion across. I believe that my initial reaction was due to the fact my movie watching brain has been watered down over the years with movies that DON'T MAKE ME FEEL ANYTHING. CHUMSCRUBBER reminds me what movies could and should do everytime.
Jamie Bell plays Dean, a suburban kid who's a little off the beaten path, and after finding his best friend hanging from his bedroom ceiling, walks away from the scene without telling a soul and in essence bottles up the emotions that he's feeling. Thus establishing an on-going theme that carries throughout the film in nearly all of its characters.
Dean's father, played by William Fichtner, a psychologist, prescribes drugs to his son instead of listen to him. His brother plays video games all day, off in his own little world and ends up doing something as a joke that nearly gets somebody killed. A young couple are so wrapped up in their wedding plans, that they don't realize their kid has been kidnapped for two days. The town sheriff laughs and mocks Dean as he tells him the elaborate story about the kidnapped kid, not knowing that the kidnapped kid is his own son. The suicide victim's mother struggles with her sanity because she didn't know her son.
All this to make a very worthy and poignant statement about listening, communicating and the downfalls of self-importance.
CHUMSCRUBBER is a fantastic little movie that grabs you and pulls emotions out of its pocket that will have you glued to its characters and their self important worlds.
My only gripe is that there was a very odd and unnecessary video game, montage, here's where they are now ending that took away from the most powerful scene of the movie... when Dean confronts his emotions at his best friends memorial with his best friends mother, played by a phenominal GLEN CLOSE.
For the first time in the movie, someone spoke, someone actually spoke and shared, and communicated and it made things all better.
A very worthy point to top off a very worthy film."
"Don't ignore me."
Jessica Lux | Rosamond, CA | 04/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Chumscrubber is a brilliant portrayal of suburban dysfunction that deserves a place alongside American Beauty, Edward Scissorhands, and The Squid and the Whale. The movie takes place in a picture-perfect community with social-climbing (and subtly back-stabbing) parents who have little time for their children. The movie opens with young loner Dean discovering his childhood best friend hanging from the rafters in his bedroom. Dean gets little support from the adults in his world, and a group of teens quickly latches on to see if Dean can score the drug connections of his deceased friends.
This is a tale told with subtle nuances and situational irony--the mothers pop speed and herbal energizers while turning a blind eye to their childrens' drug and alcohol abuse, the parents permit absolutely anything if "it's for school," and a funeral and over-the-top wedding compete for space and attention on the McMansion block. Kidnapping and bullying take place right under the eyes of a cast of self-absorbed parents played by Ralph Fiennes, Glenn Close, and Allison Janney. The dialog, imagery, and themes of this movie all compliment the first-rate acting. Prepare to have your jaw drop as you watch The Chumscrubber."