The Joneses directed by Derrick Borte (Echo Lake Productions, Premiere Picture, R, 96 minutes)
Starring: Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth, Gary Cole, Lauren Hutton.
I’m anti-hype, or what my sister-in-law would call “hipster”. When the band, Mumford & Sons, wasn’t popular, I loved them. Now that they’re huge and trendy (at least here in Seattle), they’re no longer my favorite. Additionally, I bought a Nintendo Wii instead of the Xbox. But, American consumerism, and our economy as a whole, is based on hype, and what’s popular. In the satirical commentary on American consumerism, The Joneses, everyone looks to a picture-perfect family to discern what to buy.
The Joneses (played by David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard, and Ben Hollingsworth) are good looking, friendly, affluent, and always seem to stay ahead of the fashion curve. Everyone in the neighborhood wants to be like them.
But, in the first few minutes of the plot, the audience notices something is different about them; they aren’t really a family; they’re a huge marketing ploy by a large corporation. Husband and wife don’t sleep in the same room, and the children act more like adults than angst-ridden teens. They instead, are moving into the neighborhood to try to sell as much cutting-edge fashion, cars, golf equipment, or whatever to their new neighbors.
The Perfect Sale
Steve Jones (David Duchovny) is the worst salesman in the family. He only sells moderately well, displaying his golf clubs to the local golf fetishists. He also is beginning to hate his family life. He realizes his life is a sham, and feels somewhat repulsed by his trivial and shallow lifestyle. He wants a real family and a real wife, with real children; he doesn’t want a shallow scam put forth by a large corporation. Perhaps his conscience protests too loudly and affects his influence.
Kate Jones (Demi Moore), as the family team leader only seeks to increase their overall referral rate for sales. She is, in short, a cold-hearted, single-minded individual. She entertains her female neighbors brilliantly, and manages to sell all the girly products out there. She’s the saleswoman of the century; she also lacks a conscience, only seeking to make the money she wants.
The children, Jennifer (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth), also sell well because they wear cool stuff. You can watch the fashion shift in their fictitious neighborhood drastically as the teenagers exert more influence on their angst-ridden counterparts. But, they begin to feel a sense of inner worthlessness. Their cynicism begins to show, and their inauthentic lives begin to fall apart.
Artistry and Conviction
While this movie is far from perfect, and lacks the conviction that a more artfully considered movie would provide, the message remains clear, and director Derrick Borte did a good job with the cast, all things considered (Demi Moore never really does it for me). The noose tightens around The Jones’ inauthentic lives, and their complicated emotions unravel in an elaborate, emotion-filled way.
The message that is portrayed is clear—in our society you have to play to your Joneses. Whatever influence it may be, whether family, commercial, or other, there is always an outside influence telling society what is cool and important. You may choose to ignore the hype, but generally you’re susceptible to it whether you know it or not.
In the end, this movie is a great idea; it tells of the pitfalls of consumerism through a drama. But, I think the film fell short because it isn’t as artfully and intentionally executed as it should have been. Nonetheless, I think The Joneses is worth a view.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
Posted by: Andrew Jacobson