KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES
US, 2016, 105 minutes, Colour.
Zach Galifiniakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm, Gal Gaddo, Patton Oswalt, Matt Walsh, Maribeth Munroe.
Directed by Greg Mottola.
This is an entertaining suburban story, not particularly demanding, with some amusing characters, comic situations – and some suburban espionage in Atlanta, Georgia.
It is the Gaffneys, Karen and Jeff, who are the couple who have to keep up with the Joneses. He is played by Zach Galifiniakis, proving in 2016 to be an entertaining comic performer, here and in Masterminds, more restrained than in his Hangover days. She is played by Isla Fisher (who is married to Sacha Baron Cohen which should keep her in training for offbeat comedy). They see their two sons of to summer camp and decide to enjoy the time off – with a humorous imagining of sexcapades but settling down with some snacks to watch The Good Wife.
Jeff works at a highly specialised industrial centre in Human Resources and we are treated to a collage of some funny, seemingly inept, attempts to settle disputes. He is a kindly man, even allowing workmates to come in to use his computer for contacts that are forbidden by the company. Meanwhile, Karen is an interior designer and their neighbours have decided that they want a Brooklyn-style urinal installed in their house and she has to be creative about it.
But Karen is distracted because, across the street, a new couple move in, the Joneses. He is played by Jon Hamm (partly answering the question about what does Jon Hamm do after 92 episodes of Madcap men), Tim Jones and Gal Gaddo (the Israeli actress who has already been seen as Wonder Woman in Batman versus Superman and will soon have her own film, and is definitely suited to the part) is Natalie Jones.
The trouble is that Jeff is benign and accepts the invitation by Tim to go to a Chinese restaurant, specialising in snakes, so that Tim can loosen him up and pump him for information about the company and the workers. Karen is more assertive, following Natalie, seeing her make a drop, and exposed, in more ways than one, when she is caught by Natalie trying out lingerie.
Actually, it is not hard to see where the plot is continually taking us, to see whether the Joneses are the good guys or the bad guys, sinister motorbike pursuits, dangerous car ride (with Karen getting a phone call from the two boys at camp about cookies) and Jeff having to get out onto the back of the car to remove a dynamite pack that the enemy has tossed there!
We might be a bit surprised at who the villains are, selling the secrets, but it is all given a suburban and employment explanation. And as for the climax, the lavish hotel in Atlanta receives a huge boost as being the scene of some mayhem as the Gaffneys act as decoys to ferret out the archvillain, Patton Oswalt in an enjoyable comic performance as well.
There are some humorous writing and performances which will while away a pleasantly and demanding hour and a half.
1. Comedy of the suburbs – and spies?
2. The Atlanta setting, the city, the cul-de-sac, the stylish homes, neighbours? The celebration of the Junetober Festival? Everyone together? The industrial plant? Jobs? Quality of life? The musical score?
3. The title, the phrase, suggestions of humour? The characters, comedy, the dialogue, situations? Spoof? Sending up while using the spy conventions?
4. Karen and Jeff, the kids going to camp, going home, imagining the sexcapades, the reality - watching television? Their encounter with their neighbours, he working at MBI, she with the new house decoration, the Brooklyn-urinal? Karen designing it?
5. The Joneses arriving, the image? Karen watching, phoning Jeff at work? His arriving home, the blunder about spying, their having coffee, Natalie washing-up, the gift of the glass? The conversation, all about their work, Tim and his travel writing, glass blowing, and all the evidence on the computer? Natalie and her cooking, the Sri Lankan orphans? Karen looking out the window at night, seeing the case and the car?
6. Karen, curious, following Natalie, seeing the drop, in the store, the encounter with the lingerie – buying it and Karen later using it?
7. Jeff, jovial, working in human relations, the collage of his human resources work, the trusting woman, the bickering gay couple, allowing people to use his computer for Internet use?
8. Jeff and Tim, going to the Chinese restaurant, the episodes with the snake in the wine, his getting drunk, his being bitten, giving the information to Tim?
9. The Junetober first, Tim and his being lost looking for the toilet, Natalie and her stylish dress, the impact on everyone? The ideal couple?
10. Tim and his search? Karen and Jeff, going into the house, the search, the discovery of the computer, the espionage?
11. Jeff and his worry, going to the security supervisor – and his being shot?
12. Tim and Nathalie rescuing Karen and Jeff, their concern, in the car, the phone call from the boys at camp, the chase, the cars and crashes, the motorbikers? The bomb on the car and Jeff getting rid of it, the explosion? The aftermath, in the cafe, trying to get some answers – but no answers?
13. Tim and Natalie getting home, the house exploding, their escape, having the neighbours tied up in the basement? The truth? The neighbour and his financial and employment motivation for stealing the secrets?
14. The decision to trap the Scorpion, dressing up, as decoys, the flash hotel, the backup? Encountering the Scorpion, Bruce at MBI, his upset and counselling about the car park? Stealing and selling? The danger, the backup moving out? Tim and Natalie taken? Karen, seeing the knife, the kiss, Jeff’s shock, the upset, the chase, Jeff crashing into the window, everybody jumping, his finally being in the pool, the explosion?
15. Tim and Natalie, their arguing about lying and their profession?
16. Marrakesh, Karen and Jeff, seeing Tim and Natalie and their being pregnant…?