The Chumscrubber

Movies, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
The Chumscrubber
Jamie Bell opts for another offbeat US indie, but this one feels strangely familiar. ‘American Beauty’, ‘Donnie Darko’, ‘Thumbsucker’, ‘Stepford Wives’ and others are instantly recalled in this self-conscious attempt to peel back the layers of the dark side of suburbia through the eyes of its disaffected teens. Dean (Bell) is a misfit whose distant parents think his problems can be solved by prescription drugs. His town has a surreal quality: glassy-eyed adults adopt a veneer of contentment lest the neighbours suspect anything is wrong. We’ve seen this town before, and we’ve seen it done better.

But while the set-up rarely feels credible, the plot does engage. The drama starts when Dean visits his friend Troy, a drug dealer, while Troy’s mother (Glenn Close) is throwing a party. Dean finds Troy hanged and leaves without telling anyone. The seeds are sown for parental panic about Dean’s mental state and a kidnap plot that drives the action forward. A group of Dean’s classmates scheme to nab his little brother in order to blackmail him for Troy’s stash; they grab the wrong boy, and a farcical spiral of comical misadventures ensues.

Ironically, the boy’s parents don’t even notice he’s missing: his mother (Rita Wilson) is too busy getting ready to marry the town mayor (Ralph Fiennes). Thus the narrative is underpinned by a deeply cynical vision of parental neglect, superficiality and selfishness, never softened by a figure of hope. While it’s too extreme to convince, it’s not arch enough to work as satire. ‘The Chumbscrubber’ is much like its characters: decorative, entertaining and emotionally empty.

By: Anna Smith


Release details

Cast and crew

Director: Arie Posin
Screenwriter: Zac Stanford
Cast: Jamie Bell
Carrie-Anne Moss
Lou Taylor Pucci
Ralph Fiennes
Josh Janowicz
Camilla Belle
Justin Chatwin
Glenn Close
John Heard
Allison Janney
William Fichtner
Rita Wilson
Thomas Curtis