"KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES" - The Inside Story
For the first time in eleven years, Jeff and Karen Gaffney find themselves facing a challenge that all parents eventually face: the empty next. With their kids away for the first time at summer camp, the Gaffneys hope to spend some quality alone-time and reignite the romantic fire that has started to flicker. This proves easier said than done when Karen’s imagination is distracted by the sudden arrival of new neighbors on the cul-de-sac: The Joneses, whose stunning looks are only matched by the worldly sophistication of their lives. Tim Jones is an accomplished travel writer whose hobbies include blowing his own glass sculptures, and his wife Natalie is social media consultant, cooking blogger, and heroine to the plight of Sri Lankan orphans. As Karen asks, "Why would people this attractive and accomplished ever want to live here?" The Gaffney's will soon discover the Joneses are not who they say they are. Screenwriter Michael LeSieur found inspiration from some friends’ idyllic lives in a suburban cul de sac: a street closed at one end. “It was similar to the one in "Keeping Up With The Joneses", and my friends could not have been happier living there," says LeSieur ("The Heist"). "It was like they had discovered paradise. It’s so endearing and funny that people could find that much happiness in something that simple." LeSieur was also intrigued by husband and wife super-spies, such as those depicted in films like "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and by a married duo he envisioned living across the street from such a stealthy couple. "I kept wondering, what this average husband-and-wife would think about all the craziness going on in the spies’ house. There’s a whole other movie going on from the neighbors’ perspective. I started thinking about that and combining it with some aspects of the lives of my friends living on their beloved cul-de-sac." Director Greg Mottola, whose previous films include the hit comedy "Superbad", also sparked to that juxtaposition, while noting that LeSieur’s screenplay brought to mind Billy Wilder’s classic 1960 comedy "The Apartment" and the 1945 romantic drama "Brief Encounter" from David Lean. As Mottola explained: "Wilder co-wrote "The Apartment" after seeing "Brief Encounter", which depicts a love affair between a married woman and a married man, and whose liaisons take place in a friend’s apartment. Wilder saw that movie and wondered about the guy who lends his apartment to people having illicit affairs. I thought that was a fun way to tell a story." Mottola ("Paul") credits LeSieur’s style and approach as another major draw. "I like Mike’s writing a lot. He tends not to create just jokes and one-liners; Mike writes real characters and has a dry and sometimes absurd sense of humor. It felt like a comedy/character movie disguised as a high-concept idea, and that’s the kind of story I love most." But, even before Mottola came aboard the project, LeSieur had successfully pitched it to producers Laurie Macdonald ("Gladiator") and Walter F. Parkes ("Dinner for Schmucks"). "I think Walter responded to the contrast between the suburban couple, living this boring life, and this fantastic, sophisticated, well-traveled couple that is moving into a neighborhood to which they don’t seem to belong. The wife is suspicious of the new neighbors, but the husband is thrilled to have these exciting people living nearby. It’s a rich premise." Parkes and Macdonald add that they also sparked to the idea of a suburban couple who, says Parkes: "desperately wants to be friends with their neighbors. This connection provides a recognizable and emotional foundation for a high concept comedy: that the film wasn’t just about playing the gag." While comedy gold is mined from the chasm separating the two couples lifestyles, demeanor and professions, there is indeed an important commonality between the two pairings: the Gaffneys eventually learn that the picture, perfect, Joneses, share the same kinds of problems endemic to their union, and tovirtually all marriages. Two time Primetime Emmy winner Zach Galifiankis ("Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis") says his character Jeff Gaffney, is one of those guys, who "puts a positive face on everyone and everything, so it’s fun to watch him lose it when faced with real danger. I loved playing a character that starts coming unraveled, thanks to the spies he’s becoming friends with.” Jeff even puts a positive spin on his mid-management job in Human Resources, arguably one of the least respected professions in our corporate culture. “It’s clear Jeff is good at what he does in what many people would describe as a less than desirable position. But he approaches it like it’s the job he was chosen for." LeSieur says that job not only added another comedic andrelatable dimension to the character, it had a familial connection to the screenwriter. "I really admire people who have a job that no one else wants, yet they’ve found a way to love it and do it to the best of their ability."
LeSieur revealed his grandfather worked on the Manhattan Project, in Human Resources. "He literally had no idea they were making an Atomic Bomb. He just went to work and did his HR stuff. When I asked him about knowing almost nothing about the project that was employing him, my grandfather answered, 'we knew only that it was top secret and that we were happy to have a good job, and we didn’t ask.' That story always fascinated me." The mild-mannered and well-meaning Jeff is a different kind of character for Zach Galifianakis, who, says Laurie Macdonald, "tends to be a very extreme comic presence in his movies. We thought, wouldn’t it be great to give Zach the opportunity to be the real comic lead? Zach approached the film and the role very much as an actor. This isn’t a comedian who’s acting; this is an actor who’s bringing tremendous comic gifts to a role. He’s the emotional heart and soul of the film.” 2008 Elle Women in Hollywood Icon Award winning actress, Isla Fisher, notes that she embraced the story’s premise because "there’s so much comedy inherent in a suburban couple with their noses pressed to the glass, envying their neighbors’ glamorous lives.” Once Karen is done snooping on her neighbors, she learns she actually has an unexpected affinity for espionage. "Karen is a designer but until she met the Joneses, she hadn’t really figured out her true calling,” says LeSieur. "She’s been searching for it and then discovers she’s pretty skillful at this espionage stuff. In another life, Karen might have been a good secret agent." When Tim and Natalie Jones move to the cul de sac, the neighbors, including Jeff and Karen, understandably view the newbies as exotic outsiders. But we soon learn that even well-traveled, well-heeled and well-versed (in everything!) people like the Joneses have problems of their own. The director notes: "No matter how perfect people look on the outside, everyone has their issues." On the surface, Tim Jones embodies everything the movies have taught us about spies. He’s handsome, suave, and a master of weaponry and the martial arts. But it was the way the character defies expectations that really drew two time Golden Globe winner, Jon Hamm (2008 & '16), to the role. "The interesting thing about Tim is that he’s a reluctant spy. He’s very good at it, but he doesn’t necessarily still like it. He’d like to be more like Jeff: a normal suburban guy."In addition to Tim’s surprising complexities, Hamm was drawn to the film’s combination of comedy and action, neither of which were featured much in the acclaimed TV series "Mad Men", in which the actor starred. 2015 Gold Derby Award winner Galifiankis ("Birdman") revealed, he " knew Jon before he was 'suave Jon'. He is actually really funny. To be that handsome, too, is kind of unfair, isn’t it?" There aren’t that many people who look like Jon, who are also funny,” Mottola agress. "He has this Cary Grant-like thing, where Jon can be incredibly light on his feet and very dry and funny. And he and Zach have great chemistry." Gal Gadot, who recently starred as Wonder Woman in "Batman v Superman", and who reprises the role in the upcoming "Wonder Woman and Justice League": portrays Natalie; an ex-Mossad agent who now works for the Agency, and is partnered with her husband. Unlike Tim, she loves being a spy; second-guessing her life’s work just isn’t in Natalie’s nature. Gadot (Elena Vlaslov in "Triple 9") explains. "When we meet them, Natalie and Tim have a good relationship, except that he doesn’t share a lot with her. Tim may even be a little intimidated by Natalie. After all, she’s quite dominant and is always in control. Natalie wants things to happen when she wants them to happen." A movie about super-spies, even one with a blithe sense of humor, warrants a mega bad guy, right? A villain of uncommon ordinaryness and fun. 2016 Primetime Emmy winner Patton Oswalt ("Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping") takes on the role of the nefarious 'Scorpion'. 2000 Elle Women in Hollywood Award winner Macdonald ("The Kite Runner") notes: "We’ve come up with a villain who is, like so many people, driven from insecurity. That’s a surprising take on that kind of character." Mottola credits stunt coordinator/2nd unit director Steven Ritzi ("12 Years a Slave") with staging the action for maximum impact and thrills. After a week of enduring deafening gunfire and screeching tires, the cast and crew moved on to the Scorpion’s posh hotel penthouse, high atop a Hyatt hotel in downtown Atlanta. "We wanted to create an elite, textured hotel suite that is as fabulous as it is ridiculous. Just like the 'Scorpion' himself,” says Art Director Jeremy Woolsey. While the action is a key element of the film: it always puts comedy and romance front and centre. Mottola concludes: "We didn’t design the movie to just machine-gun jokes all the time. These characters are meant to be recognizable. Audiences will really like them."
Watch The Trailer On YouTube
The Verdict?
"If you like the look of the trailer and you get the impression that "Keeping Up with the Joneses" is see-worthy; the last thing you need to do, is check out what the critics are saying. Never the less, here's a few that may boost your desire to see this comedy/actioner. Vicki Roach WATCH MAGAZINE. "Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis team up with Don Draper and Wonder Woman for laughs. There hasn’t been a spy couple this perfect since, well, Mr and Mrs Smith. Gadot’s kick-ass credentials have never been in question. But the Israeli-born actress’s natural physical presence in Keeping Up With The Joneses augurs well for DC Comics’s upcoming star turn." David N. Butterworth REC & ARTS MOVIE REVIEWS. "Keeping Up with the Joneses" is a fun, silly comedy with few pretensions and an extremely likeable cast. it's got two of my favorite things in a movie: coherence and good tone." Roxana Hadadi CHESAPEAKE FAMILY MAGAZINE. "It successfully makes you empathize both with the gorgeous spies whom you can’t fully trust and the average suburbanites you may not want to admit you are. Keeping Up With the Joneses makes the story of suburban spycraft more enjoyable than you would initially expect." Norman Wilner TORONTO NOW. "Operatives move into suburbia surprising the neighbors in fun actioner. Keeping Up With The Joneses is smarter and funnier than it needs to be for a studio action-comedy. That's something, these days." Matthew Turner THE LIST. "Keeping Up with the Joneses sustains a breezy pace and delivers a passable amount of action and humour, even if it never quite lives up to its full potential." So, is it worth spending your hard, earned, bucks on "Keeping Up with the Joneses"? Well, the screening I went to watch chock a block full and the audience reaction was pretty good. It's not outrageously funny, but there are many 'funny' moments, especially those involving Ilse Fisher. Leave you to make up your own mind." 3 1/2 STARS
The Main Players
Zach Galifianakis
Isla Fisher
Jon Hamm
Gal Gadot
s Patton Oswalt
Ming Zhao
Matt Walsh
Maribeth Monroe
Michael Liu
Kevin Dunn
Dayo Abanikanda
Henry Boston
Jack McQuaid
Ying He
Yi Dong Hian
Harry Galifianakis
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Jeff Gaffney
Karen Gaffney
Tim Jones
Natalie Jones
Scorpion
Scorpion's Girlfriend
Dan Craverston
Meg Craverston
Yang
Carl Pronger
Cool Man
Patrick
Mikey
Mrs Lu
Mr Lu
Diner Customer
The Production Team
Directed by Greg Mottola
Writing by Michael LeSieur
Produced by Laurie MacDonald & Walter F Parkes
Executive Producers Timothy M Bourne & Marc Resteghini
Associate Producers Riyoko Tanaka & H.H. Cooper
Original Music by Jake Monaco
Director Of Photography Andrew Dunn
Film Editor David Rennie
Production Design by Mark Ricker
Art Direction by Jeremy Woolsey
Set Decoration by Jenn Sandel
Additional Photography Rena DeAngelo
Costume Design by Ruth E Carter
Run Time 105 minutes
Rated M [AUST]
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