Arie Posin’s The Chumscrubber is a dark comedy that managed to get the attention of a handful of fine actors (including Glenn Close and Ralph Fiennes), but somehow misplaces its story in its journey from script to screen.
We hear the voice of the mysterious Chumscrubber first as he describes our perfectly sculpted Hillside locale as: “This was the best of all possible worlds, but even here a little help was necessary. And that’s where Troy came in.”
And so the story begins, introducing us to maybe too many perfectly happy families (with moms named Terri, Jerri, Carrie, and Mary) and their pill-addicted troubled teens.
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It’s only three or four minutes in when our hero, Dean (Jamie Bell), discovers that his friend Troy has committed suicide by hanging himself from a rafter in his cabana bedroom. And so Posin and company begin Dean’s journey to understand both his reality and his best friend’s suicide.
But every hero needs a villain, and Hillside’s villain is Billy (Justin Chatwin), a high school teen who’s all talk about his desire to fly jets for the military. But today Billy is hell-bent on getting his hands on Troy’s pill stash so that he and his yes-man sidekick, Lee, can assume the role of school dealer. To achieve this goal they need to enroll the uncooperative Dean into their master plan.
How do they do this?
They plot to kidnap Dean’s brother Charley (Rory Culkin) and hold him for ransom. But to their surprise the Charley they nab is not Dean’s brother, but the soon-to-be stepson of Hillside’s Mayor (Ralph Fiennes). Billy’s girlfriend, Crystal (Camilla Belle), plays the would-be femme fatale who falls for Dean’s abrasive personality.
It’s Crystal who ultimately gets Dean to understand that he is the kidnapped Charley’s only hope (and that saving him is more important to his happiness than pills).
A premise with promise, but one that loses itself in a crowd of equally troubled, self-centered characters attempting to fill their own Hillside voids. Posin’s story and Zac Stanford ‘s screenplay has fallen victim to on-set tweaks and post-production polishing.
The Chumscrubber‘s most interesting characters are Hillside’s Mayor (Ralph Fiennes) and Troy’s mother, Carrie (Glenn Close) – troubling in that these are characters we do not see often enough. Close must have been attracted to a role promising a journey to acceptance that she never really knew her son. Close and Bell are wonderful in this moment.
Armed with a script that allows simultaneous closure for these characters and with production techniques that masterfully put us into their individual pain. The scene falls short, however, because the second act doesn’t give us enough setup to let us feel this pain.
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Unfortunately, The Chumscrubber‘s most distracting element is its title. With so much going on and so many characters to complete, Posin doesn’t leave himself nearly enough space to clue those of us not familiar with his graphic novel into just who or what The Chumscrubber really is – and so we’re left wondering, what was this all about?