Susan Granger’s review of “The Joneses” (Roadside Attractions)
It’s a brilliant premise but wretchedly executed as German-born, American-educated Derrick Borte, who co-wrote the script with Randy T. Dinzler, takes the materialistic idea of “Keeping up with the Joneses” to a whole new level.
As the story begins, Steve and Kate Jones (David Duchovny, Demi Moore) are driving up to their new McMansion in an upscale suburban neighborhood with their two attractive teenagers, Jennifer (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth). The Ethan Allen furniture delivery vans have just departed and every lavish décor detail is in place.
“We’re going to do some serious damage here,” Steve coolly observes, as the family immediately starts showing off their new, top-of-the-line electronic gadgets, shiny cars, sports equipment, designer clothing and dazzling jewelry to their awed neighbors. But the seemingly entitled Joneses aren’t who they seem. They’re not even a family; they’re a carefully coordinated sales unit with ambitious. ruthlessly conniving, Kate as boss.
As out lined by their handler (‘70s supermodel Lauren Hutton), the Joneses’ mission is simple: “We’re making a match between great products and the people who love them… You’re here to sell a lifestyle, an attitude – if they like you, they’ll like what you have.”
This slick concept of stealth marketing is a clever idea. But that’s as far as it goes, aside from their recession-wracked neighbors (Gary Cole, Glenne Headley) whose marriage literally disintegrates as they sink deeper and deeper in debt.
Former commercial director, Derrick Borte is obviously more interested in product placement than in the sly inherent satire of consumer conformity or even developing a believable arc for the shallow “Stepford Wives”-like characters he’s glibly concocted. While the former golf pro/car salesman. wryly played by David Duchovny. eventually becomes conscience-stricken, the sexual confusion of the younger generation, represented by Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth, is introduced but never explored. And since throughout the narrative, Demi Moore remains cold-blooded and calculating, it’s difficult not to cynically correlate her real-life, off-screen hawking of similar self-improvement brands, so on the Granger Movie Gauge, “The Joneses” fizzles to a 4. Phony baloney!