The Chumscrubber (2005)

Layout 1To some, “The Chumscrubber” will seem like just another thought-provoking indie, and in some ways it is, but it’s also essentially a statement about being who you are and not who you think you should be. The characters in the film are the people they are only because they feel they have to adhere to a certain standard, and this becomes infectious spreading throughout their entire community. This also occurs due to their own self-medication and their inability to face what lies beyond their own prescriptions. But upon the death of Dean’s best friend, he finds himself in a journey of self-discovery, and a very botched kidnapping plot that’s snowballed into a massive scandal that only he and his enemies are aware of.

Arie Posin’s picture of Utopia is set upon a very pastoral and pristine set of suburbs that is always disingenuous both in its design and due to its locals, all thanks to the self-medication of its locals. Dean, who simply wants to medicate himself and be left alone, finds himself in a grudge match with a local juvenile and his friends whom have kidnapped a young boy. They think the Charlie they’ve kidnapped is Dean’s brother Charlie, but they’re woefully unaware that it’s the wrong kid all too late. Now they’re holding him hostage until Dean decides to give them the drugs that his friend left behind. Through this, we view yet another plot in which the resident femme fatale Crystal (a very sexy Camilla Belle) bonds with the hostage discovering how inept yet completely honest he is. Charlie is the only genuine entity here who doesn’t know he’s being held against his will until it’s too late, and finally views them in all their horrible truth.

Belle teaches him how to be himself and discovers her own disingenuous nature in the process. Jamie Bell’s performance is show stopping and he holds this film up well even in the shadow of people like Ralph Fiennes, and Glenn Close. His character Dean is one who finally finds he’s sick of his own safe world and wants to venture out beyond it to see how human he can be. If only Posin’s film wasn’t simply “Donnie Darko” sans the supernatural. And even then the slight supernatural twist in the climax adds that extra annoyance. Bell’s character is mainly just an impression of Jake Gyllenhaal being Donnie Darko, while Belle’s character never goes beyond Jena Malone’s character in the former. It’s a shame because Jamie Bell’s performance is very good up until he goes into Donnie Darko mode which then detracts from the story.

“The Chumscrubber” is also yet another “seedy underbelly of the suburbs” film that we’ve seen so many times over the last ten years. There’s the sexy neighbor, the mom struggling to fit in, the impotent overbearing husband, the children whom are both ashamed of their parents and apathetic, as always, it takes the death of someone to cause the characters to examine themselves and their living situations, thus leading to a long climax involving soft rock and a montage, and then there’s the idiotic climax in which all the wheels fall off and Posin’s attempts at symbolism and allegories are all in vain. Sure, it’s not perfect, and the second half makes zero sense. But while the flaws are there, and the clichés are shameless, something about “The Chumscrubber” won me over. Whether the good performances, or sheer twisted attitude it presents to the same old formula, I enjoyed it, and the story.