KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: A Cinematic Weapon of Mass Distraction
I predict, given the current climate the presidential election has created in the US, there will be historically low attendance at the Halloween holiday horror films usually trotted out this time of the year. What we all need is a little distraction and light laughter. Enter this week’s delightfully ditzy release KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES. Funny, silly, and a celebration of sisterhood and bromance, it’s just what the cinematic mood surgeon ordered.
Suburban couple Jeff and Karen Gaffney, (Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) have settled into a boring, staid existence in their cul-de-sac. Jeff works in human resources at a defense contractor, and Karen concerns herself with their two growing boys. The highlight of their lives is the occasional sex they fit into their routine, done quickly enough to avoid interruption by their kids. Enter gorgeous, overachieving couple Tim and Natalie Jones, (equally gorgeous Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) who drive fancy cars, wear designer clothes, who move in across the street. When they make an effort to become friends with Jeff, who is socially inept, and Karen, who is perpetually paranoid about people’s motivations, espionage and bullet ballets ensue.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES is obviously a bit of a riff on the wildly successful Mr. and Mrs. Smith, albeit with friendships between couples taking the focus instead of romance. That’s not to say there isn’t romance. The chemistry between Gadot and Hamm is off the charts. Galifianakis and Fisher also come across as believable in their roles as comfortable yet jaded marrieds. It’s the friendships, however, that make the film memorable and most entertaining. The characters are developed just enough to create connection with the audience. While both Hamm and Gadot’s characters are hyper-capable, they also show weaknesses that make them approachable. Unbelievably, in the midst of two known comedic actors with Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis, Jon Hamm is the standout. Although fans of MAD MEN are aware of his acting prowess, here, he shows his impeccable comic timing, and his deadpan delivery. Were I a producer in Hollywood, he’d rise to the top of my wish list for all comedies, both broad and nuanced, going forward.
I would be remiss not to mention the interlude in which we see both Gal and Isla in lingerie. It’s pandering, certainly, but they find a way to get the ladies into some pretty provocative lingerie, and even as a straight girl, I was impressed and inspired. This film may singlehandedly create an uptick in sexy underwear sales. To all the folks who think that alone sounds like reason enough for KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES to exist, no doubt director and cast say “you’re welcome”. I hope they got to keep what they wore.
In these last days before Election Day, a film like KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES is just the sort of well-acted innocuous entertainment that could be seen repeatedly and should do well. Is it reinventing the espionage comedy? No. It is, however, fun and light, and has very pretty people being funny. Do we really need more than that in a date film right now?