8/10
A dark indie satire
9 April 2006
There are two kinds of independent movies, those that belongs to the first one passes unnoticed for most moviegoers. They are playing mostly in art houses and patiently waiting for you in video stores. At the same time, movies from the second and much smaller group for some reason (which is hardly explainable sometimes) get all possible attention and sometimes they can replace mainstream production in theaters.

Chumscrubber, which obviously belongs to the first group, is a rather unique and courageous satirical attempt of showing on the surface quiet and peaceful life of suburbia and middle class people there. Welcome to Hillside, a town where all people know each other and at the same time, no one of them cares much about others. But, the unexpected event brings some changes to a monotonous life of the town.

Dean Stiffle's best friend Troy, a teenager who supplied drugs to a local high school commits a suicide and a company of school tough guys believe that Dean knows where to find Troy's store. After the school, they kidnap Dean's brother Charlie but they make mistake and take a wrong Charley, thirteen years old Charlie Bratley. It's not completely a kidnapping; for some of them it looks just like a funny game and even for Charlie himself, big boys and a pretty girl at least for the first time is a funny company and amusing experience he have never had before. Dean gets a threatening call but to his surprise and relief, he sees his brother playing video games in a neighboring room. He expectedly gives "I don't care" answer and mistake soon will be revealed. Day passes but no one from adults don't see what's going on. They are totally absorbed in planning their personal lives and making own careers and unable to see anything above that. The only subject for Dean's father is his books on psychology, which he is trying to use on his son while his mother is elsewhere trying to sell some herbal medicine. They don't see that the family is falling apart and then his brother Charlie found a way to escape reality in video games, Dean, who is one of very few relatively normal teenagers, become an outcast among his schoolmates and withdraw into himself. Troy's mother spends all the time telling her neighbors that she doesn't blame them for her son's death. Divorced Charlie Bratley's mother for a long time has been planning her wedding with city's major, who becomes obsessed with a strange visions and ideas. She doesn't even notice his son's disappearance and talking to him through a closed door. Billy who is the head of the company and its inspirer bring Charlie to his home but his parents also don't see anything special. "It's for school" is a perfect answer that assures everyone that everything is on its tracks and in order. Even a direct truth is taking as a joke. The children are completely left on their own and soon Dean realizes that nobody's noticed that a kid is not home for a long time and he's the only one who could do anything to resolve a conflict even if it is no concern of him.

The movie cast unites too many famous actors for a small budgeted indie movie. The adult actors always have good performances of their satirical characters, but they are mostly the background of the story, where the main stars are young actors and their characters. Jamie Bell (mainly known for his first role in Billy Elliot) who is playing the main young character is excellent and his ability of creating required accent deserves the highest praises. Justin Chatvin is strong enough as a company leader Billy and the youngest of characters, Thomas Curtis as Charley Bratley steal the show in a couple of crucial moments.

Such rather absurd satirized image of selfish behavior combined with blissful ignorance works pretty well with adult characters in the movie. This is satire that doesn't make you laugh watching the movie, its just make you think why such things could happen. Unfortunately, on the contrary, important young characters are underdeveloped and sometimes the movie doesn't give us a reasonable explanation for their acts and way of behavior. The story itself also has perceptible lapses and problem points, which don't let creating a complex image and evoke obvious questions. However, despite some problems with characters, continuity flaws and possible overusing of symbolism without a certain need, the director was able to make a mostly captivating picture that brought me to deep thoughts for a while. The main problem is that the movie and its intensive climax don't give any solution or escaping for the situation as well as it doesn't give the answer for above mentioned question why such Hillsides are possible. The Chumscrubber is a striking contrast to mainstream movies, a movie that obviously worth seeing and makes you think, but because of its perceptible flaws and partly narrow-minded approach, it's unable to reach complete success.

8 out of 10
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