(director/writer: Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe; cinematographer: Lowell A. Meyer; editor: Taylor Gianotas; music: Samuel Nobles; cast: Jocelyn DeBoer (Jill), Dawn Luebbe (Lisa), Beck Bennett (Nick), Neil Casey (Dennis), Mary Holland (Kim Ann), D’Arcy Carden (Miss Human), Asher Miles Fallica (Bob), Abigail and Allison Kurtz (Madison or Paige), Janicza Bravo (Marriott); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Natalie Metzger; IFC Midnight; 2019)
“It’s a nutty satire on the suburban normal that should make us wary of filmmakers who have nothing to say.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Actor filmmaker friends, Upright Citizens Brigade vets, based in L.A., Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, in their feature film debut as directors, give us this awkwardly absurdist satire on the suburban middle-class that they star in. It’s destined to be a cult film, one that’s shot in a trippy day-glo and where the soccer moms appear in public in pastel-clad attire. It trips out as a satire on a surreal idealized setting for the privileged, where the adults and not the kids wear braces on their teeth, the lawns are perfectly manicured, the entitled citizens all have cheery frozen smiles and the adults drive around in golf carts even when not golfing.
Somewhere in the suburbs in the American Southeast, soccer moms Jill (Jocelyn DeBoer) and Lisa (Dawn Luebbe) are friends who sweetly compete with each other for approval and acceptance. As the friends watch their sons play a soccer game, Lisa marvels at cutey-pie Madison (Abigail and Allison Kurtz), Jill’s new baby girl that she didn’t know her best friend had. Without consulting her hubby Nick (Beck Bennett, SNL actor) or giving it another thought, Jill gives Madison to Lisa as a present and tells her to enjoy (coming across as casually told as a waitress serving a meal to a patron).
The ineffectual hubby takes the loss of his daughter in stride and turns his attention to his affable son Julian (Julian Hilliard). The kid is great in academics but stinks in sports, which is a turn off for dad.
Meanwhile Madison is renamed Paige by Lisa, and the baby is accepted without question at home by the surprised ineffectual new father Dennis (Neil Casey, ex-“SNL” writer) and the baby’s new jock brother Bob (Asher Miles Fallica). Bob’s inability to be smart in school like Julian makes Lisa envious of Jill.
The title gives away that the film is supposed to be about keeping up with or surpassing the Joneses, or is a follow-up to the belief widely-held that the grass is always greener somewhere else.
The creepiness and stupidity of the plot kicks in even more with every passing scene until the sophomoric deadpan comedy completely evaporates from utter exasperation.The barbecue scene with the friends was the last straw for me. It has Jill and Lisa and their hubbies, all wearing braces, making out until realizing it’s with the wrong husband (which is about as witty as the humor ever gets).
Back home it suddenly dawns on Jill that she gave her baby away to someone she really doesn’t like and now has changed her mind. Whereby she gets up enough nerve to ask Lisa for her baby back by saying “I don’t want to be a Native American giver…”.
When the slight main plot runs dry a number of subplots grow out of the irksome set-up. So we have Julian turn suddenly into a golden retriever and Nick with a new purification system in place only drinks the water found in his swimming pool.
It’s the kind of one-joke, low-brow, strained comedy that might be even too weird and superficial for a skit on SNL. The nonsensical satire mistakenly thinks it can get away with having anything go.The bogus social commentary offered pretends to be warning the masses about such things as peer pressure, conformity and a plastic life in the ‘burbs, but mostly it’s a nutty satire on the suburban normal that should make us wary of filmmakers who have nothing to say.
REVIEWED ON 10/22/2019