Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In writer / director Derrick Borte’s first film we are privileged to spend some quality time with ‘The Joneses’ who have just moved into a plush suburban neighborhood just west of anywhere USA. The Joneses consist of patriarch Steve (David Duchovny) who while he doesn’t seem to have any kind of real job that I can see, still drives a real nice car and has all the latest man-toys to go along with his killer golf swing. Steve’s wife is Kate, as played by Demi Moore who I’m sure that one day is going to stop being so damned fine. It has to happen sooner or later doesn’t it? Anyway Kate doesn’t seem to be employed either but she wears all the latest designer clothes, sprays the best perfumes, throws killer parties and spends her days at the beauty salon getting catered on by the extremely flamboyant Billy (Chris Williams). Then there are the Jones kids, high schoolers Jen (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) who, like their parents, have the latest and greatest of everything. The rub concerning this perfect family is that they are not a family at all but instead are a marketing cell strategically placed to force people, through envy, to buy a bunch of stuff that they really don’t need. While that’s a plenty messed up marketing technique, what’s really messed up is the lives of these unfortunate unhappy people we’re about to spend the next ninety or so minutes with and there’s not enough super tasty flash frozen sushi or extra large 1080p LCD TV’s to fix these unhappy people’s lives.

Chief among these unhappy people are the Joneses neighbors Larry and Summer Symonds (Gary Cole and Glenne Headley). Larry is unhappy because his wife won’t give him any, on top of not being as hot as Steve’s wife in addition to a myriad of other problems. Summer is unhappy because her Mary Kay-esque business isn’t taking off and also because she’s not as hot as Kate. I’m inferring this from the text. The fake kids aren’t all that happy with Jen being a bit of whore not getting the satisfaction she needs on the regular and Mick hiding a little secret preventing him from getting the satisfaction he would like to get on the regular. Steve, a generally happy person, is a little unhappy because his hot fake wife wants to keep things professional plus he’s starting to have some doubts about the morality of this job he has taken on. Meanwhile Kate just wants her fake family to increase sales.

And so the Joneses go about their business showing the people of this neighborhood their awesome stuff, the people in the neighborhood buy this awesome stuff while everything around most of these people goes straight to hell despite all the awesome stuff they have. Not that it matters because always remember He who dies with the Most Stuff Wins.

Outside of the way Derrick Borte’s film wrapped itself up in the end, and ending which smelled a little bit like some studio meddling, I personally found ‘The Joneses’ to be very entertaining on top of being slightly subversive. Mind you that I am completely down with the accumulation of stuff and I probably have just about as much stuff as anybody in my rock bottom income bracket should have, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize that consumerism can be a dangerous thing. Especially those who fall into the traps. I’m not going to get all into what those traps are as this is far beyond the scope of this little article but if they say six months is the same as cash, then baby you better pay that bitch off in six months.

One of the reasons ‘The Joneses’ works so well, outside of the unfortunate way that Borte made the concept of a ‘marketing family’ so believable… I smell a reality show already in the works… is that Borte had some inspired casting in Duchovny and Moore. I don’t know if David Duchovny is a great actor or not but he does easy charm about as well as anybody, and underlies that easy charm of his with a thin layer of morality in this film. Chances are if Steve Jones told me that a particular driver would add thirty yards to my tee shots, then I’m probably going to buy that driver.... once it’s discontinued. The same goes for Demi Moore who did fantastic job portraying the driven and ambitious Kate Jones, a character who puts on a confident front but is about as shaky and unsure as any character in this film. Both of these characters that Duchovny and Moore play are slight variations of characters they have both played very well in the past so if it feels almost as if these characters were created with them in mind or maybe the actors simply tweaked these characters to play into their relative strengths as actors.

The challenge for the director is balancing the core of the story, that being carefully constructed consumerism, with the overriding melodrama, and he does a pretty good job of balancing these elements. Since there were so many characters, relatively speaking, with so many problems, some of the character development was a little slight particularly when it came to Duchovny and Moore’s characters who were by far the most interesting characters in the film in my opinion, and I wouldn’t have minded if the filmmakers etched away a little at some of the side characters and focused more on the two leads.

This is why when the movie came to its conclusion I don’t know if it was as effective as it could’ve been since we didn’t get a full feel for our main characters. It felt slightly out of balance with what we were given to this point, but everybody does go home happy. Kind of. Except that one guy. But I’m not spoiling it.

‘The Joneses’ was a very interesting movie based on a unique concept which in itself is something halfway special nowadays. With fine performances from David Duchovny and Demi Moore and a subject matter that attacks consumerism… while giving us more product placement than any movie ever… it is a fun watch. Now excuse me because I have shit to buy.

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