By JP Chapman | April 16, 2010
Director: Derrick Borte
Writer: Derrick Borte
Starring: Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth, Gary Cole, Lauren Hutton
The Joneses follows the lives of a seemingly perfect American family in their affluent suburban paradise. Luxury cars, an enormous house, all the latest electronics….life seems too good to be true as their fellow rich neighbors look on in envy. Unbeknownst to the neighbors….they’re right; life is too good to be true. The Joneses, made up of father Steve (David Duchovny), mother Kate (Demi Moore), daughter Jenn (Amber Heard), and son Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) aren’t a family at all. Rather, they’re a guerilla marketing ploy from a nameless corporation that embeds what on the surface are attractive, rich families throughout America to drive up demand for all the amazing possessions they’re outfitted with. Be it jewelry, video games, beauty products, or sports cars-the Joneses have it, and are encouraged to share and flaunt it all with their new friends and neighbors.
While this may seem to be an ideal situation (no living expenses, free everything, a big salary, etc), it is quickly revealed that the perfect on-the-surface family unit is wrought with numerous problems. “Father” Steve is in reality a more or less nice guy who is having difficulty coming to grasp with both his role in the “family unit”, as well as how to sell. “Mother” Kate has been in the pseudo-family business for years, and is free of attachment to people or things, but has no authentic relationships to hold onto in life. Meanwhile; “daughter” Jenn is trying to bed any and every man she can find (including Steve). Despite these familial issues, neighbors buy into what the Joneses are selling, and quickly begin to acquire things and rack up debt in an attempt to capture the “happiness” the Joneses have. As time goes by, Steve blossoms as a “salesman”. However; he begins to struggle with the idea that he may be doing more harm than good to his neighbors/”friends” by encouraging them to spend and spend…..
Just like the fictional family it portrays The Joneses looks good on the surface. However, as the layers are peeled back, a predictable story with so-so plot turns and dialogue prevent the film from becoming something truly great. First time writer/director Derrick Borte does his best to bring a unique idea to the screen, but in the process of doing so leans far too heavily on standard plot ideas and methods of film-making. Much like The Blind Side (which I know everyone seems to love now), this isn’t a bad story. In fact, it’s an interesting premise. However; Borte’s “Hollywood-ization” of the film, adds that predictable “I’ve seen this before” feeling to a movie that should really stand out as something original and interesting. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a horrible movie, and in many ways is still relatively fun to watch. Moore and Duchovny in particular push the script to actually pull off relatively interesting characters that I would have normally been willing to invest in (particularly Duchovny). All in all, there were really no “bad” performances. It’s just that The Joneses seems to spend far too much of its time on the new/exciting/gimmicky idea of its premise, and not nearly enough on better script writing or character development.
As I said before, The Joneses is not a bad movie by any means. However; it is middle of the road/predictable entertainment, like oh so many other things the entertainment industry feeds us. I actually find it fairly ironic that the very consumerism The Joneses spends most of its time mocking is what brings it down as a film in the end.