The Chumscrubber Trailer (2005)

When Dean Stiffle discovers the body of his best friend, Troy (Josh Janowicz), hanging in his bedroom, he doesn't bother telling any of the parents in his postcard perfect California neighborhood, figuring they wouldn't care. Dean shows no outward signs of remorse, and his father (William Fichtner), author of best-selling pop psychology books with titles such as The Happy Accident, treats his son with all the affection of a lab rat. "Dad," Dean deadpans, "if you write about me again in one of your stupid books, I'm going to kill you."

While Dean shrugs his way through high school wearing a psychic cloak of invisibility, his best friend Troy, the school's leading drug dealer, throws the community's carefully maintained psychotherapeutic balance into disarray when he hangs himself during one of his mother's pool parties. At school, in an effort to get their hands on Troy's stash, Dean's classmates Billy (Justin Chatwin), Crystal (Camilla Belle), and Lee (Lou Taylor Pucci) plot a kidnapping scheme: they'll abduct Dean's younger brother, Charlie (Rory Culkin), and hold him for ransom in exchange for Dean retrieving Troy's pills. Only, the hapless gang kidnaps the wrong boy, snatching Charley Bratley (Thomas Curtis) instead. Son of divorced parents?police officer Lou Bratley (John Heard), and interior decorator Terri (Rita Wilson), Charley's disappearance goes unnoticed by his mother, who is too consumed with the planning of her elaborate second wedding to town mayor Michael Ebbs (Ralph Fiennes), to realize her son has gone missing.

As these characters careen through their white-picket-fence world, each pursuing some dream, some ideal, some panacea they believe will make them happy, be it prescription or illicit drugs, vitamin supplements, the perfect body, a fairy tale wedding, self-help books, or New Age mysticism, the fractured and fractious quality of life in American suburbia is rendered with crystalline precision.

The kids and adults of Hillside live their lives entirely separately, like two opposing camps, a mournful divide played out in a visual scheme of sun-dappled, hallucinatory realism. Deciding both whether and how to negotiate these two worlds is Dean, a character whose very name purposely invokes the entire history of troubled teenage movie outsiders, from James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause to Christian Slater's J.D. in Heathers. . .

. . . And everywhere there is The Chumscrubber. A totemic pop culture presence that prowls his own post-apocalyptic landscape peopled with subhuman demons and freaks, the ubiquitous "Chumscrubber" bubbles up in television cartoons, in violent video games, on posters and T-shirts and stickers and rearview mirrors as. . . An embodiment of teen rage? A manifestation of the town's repression? A shadow vision of its collective unconscious?

"Don't ignore me," myriad characters say to one another over the course of The Chumscrubber, and that echoing line of dialogue?that plea?becomes a mantra in this film about American disconnection, be it generational, familial, cultural, or pharmaceutical. Only one character, Mayor Ebbs, holds steadfast to the conviction that everything connects. After suffering a freak head injury, Mayor Ebbs comes to believe that something truly profound is scattered beneath the surface of suburban banality, a belief borne out in The Chumscrubber's beautiful and hard-won conclusion.

As the teens play out their botched kidnapping, Troy's devastated mother (Glenn Close) plans a memorial service, and Terri and Michael prepare for their wedding, the parallel story strands converge in the film's immensely satisfying culmination. Shakespeare contended that comedies end in weddings and tragedies end in funerals: in a perfect expression of The Chumscrubber's tricky tonal highwire act?a razor's edge balance of comedy and drama, this remarkably assured debut has the good grace and audacity to end with both, occurring simultaneously, on a perfectly manicured cul-de-sac. Everything connects.

At first glance perhaps evoking the despair-beneath-the-hedges genre, The Chumscrubber possesses a wondrous sense of American magic realism uniquely its own. First-time director Arie Posin is also exceedingly generous toward his characters; investing each of the players in his large cast with a novelistic sense of empathy, ambiguity, and complexity. A work of brutal, uncompromising honesty The Chumscrubber is also, somehow, miraculously devoid of vitriol.

Richly layered, thematically provocative, filled with epiphanic visual moments and a haunting original score by James Horner, stocked with the deepest cast bench of any recent ensemble film, The Chumscrubber announces the arrival of a major film artist.

2 min 18 sec


Posted On
November 08, 2007
Arie Posin

Zac Stanford

Newmarket Films

August 5, 2005
Glenn Close
Ralph Fiennes
Caroline Goodall
Lauren Holly
Allison Janney
Trailer Tracks
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