Directed by: Derrick Borte
Premise: An apparently normal family moves into an upper class neighborhood. The “family members” are really unrelated employees of a direct marketing company posing as a family and using their connections in the neighborhood to flaunt and market products.
What Works: The Joneses is a smart satire of consumer culture. The premise of the film allows for a lot of interesting criticism as the imaginary scenario dramatizes what happens to people living their lives in pursuit of capitalist perfection. The film gives each of the family members their own subplot and each narrative line is a variation on similar themes, namely the confusion of desire with necessity, the fantasy of commoditized perfection coming headlong into conflict with the imperfections of reality, and the way capitalist agendas shape and limit human relationships. This is done especially well between the parents of the family, played by David Duchovny and Demi Moore. As the leaders of the team play husband and wife they gradually begin to believe in the roles they are playing. This relationship is inversely paralleled by their neighbors (Gary Cole and Glenne Headly), an actual couple struggling to make ends meet but putting on a façade of wealth and continuously spending money they do not have to keep pace with the ostentatious displays of wealth around them. A similar parallel exists in the lives of the teenage children of the pseudo-family, as their desire for love, fellowship, and validation is shaped by the expectations of their job and ends up warping and damaging every relationship they have and even changing the characters’ understanding of themselves. This tension in the film nicely illustrates some of the deep seeded anxiety of contemporary American culture, in which wealth is a collective illusion that has replaced other values.
What Doesn’t: The ending of The Joneses is not as strong as the rest of the picture because it succumbs to feel-good Hollywood clichés. The message intends to uplift the audience and give the characters an opportunity for redemption, but a riskier and edgier conclusion would have better served the agenda of the film.
DVD extras: Deleted scenes.
Bottom Line: The Joneses is a smart satire. Although its satirical qualities waver in the ending, it raises important and interesting ideas about a consumer culture and the way such a culture effects the people who live in it.
Episode: #318 (December 12, 2010)