Friday, April 16, 2010

The Joneses

The Joneses are not your typical American family. Written and directed by Derrick Borte the film of suburban wealth is a social commentary on consumerism, family, greed, social prestige, and the acquisition of over-priced crap you don't really need.

The film opens with the Jones' move into a plush new neighborhood. The family includes Steve (David Duchovny), his wife Kate (Demi Moore), and two children Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth)The Joneses seem to have it all, except for one thing - they aren't a real family.

Each of the four family members is actually a salesman hired by a private consortium to move into wealthy neighborhoods and attempt to show off various toys, gadgets, car, and even frozen appetizers, in an attempt to subtly entice their new neighbors to spend money on similar items. As sales practices go it's pretty devious, and almost as lucrative.

There's much to enjoy here. All four actors perform well, and the decision to make Steve (a former used car salesman) the new member of the team creates some moments of conflict and craziness. Amber Heard fans should especially enjoy one such scene early in the film.

The film's biggest strength is how it slowly shows these four individuals come together as a family. Not a functional one by any means, but a family that slowly does start to talk and care about each other. Sadly, this thread of the storyline is abandoned just as things begin to get interesting.

The possible love story between Duchovny and Moore could also have been handled with more aplomb. There's no real reason for Steve to be attracted to Kate (other than the fact that she's Demi Moore), and Kate's hot-and-cold reaction to Steve's proposals might work in your typical braindead romcom but here comes off a little forced.

The fact that the family has no cover story for it's wealth, and that the issue only comes up once early on and is quickly brushed aside, is also troubling. Each member of the family becomes the center of their social circle, and yet even the closest "friends" they come into contact with never think to stop and ask the one question which would immediately send the family packing.

In it's final act The Joneses comes perilously close to running off the rails when it's funny anti-capitalism message gets deadly serious and comes off far more hamfisted than necessary. It's really a shame to see a film with such an interesting set-up take such a pedestrian turn. I would have liked The Joneses more if it had stuck to its strengths, but we can't always get what we want (or so the film tells us, or does it?). It's still worth seeing, but The Joneses, like many a salesman, promises more than it can deliver.

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