The Joneses (2009) dir. by Derrick Borte
Starring David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Gary Cole and Glenne Headly
By Blair Stewart
Say you get on the tube in London. Or perhaps the E-train in Chicago or a metro in Montreal. You're sitting there blankly as a pair of fresh-faced, smartly-dressed twenty year olds, all youthful sex and uninhibited futures, strike up a conversation because they're both reading the same paperback book on the train. Or they both just bought the new doohickey from Apple. Or the latest Starbucks frappawhatever.
Horrifyingly, this could be an advertisement. You might actually be witnessing the performance of paid actors as 'stealth marketers', hired by an agency to plant a consumer seed in your brain so you go buy their soft drink or Apple doohickey.
Following this logical thread from minor distraction into ethical fraud, "The Joneses" concerns a platoon of select hucksters posing as a family amongst the nouveau-riche so the neighbours will buy the same crap as the Joneses. As the mock patriarch, 'Steven Jones'(David Duchovny) is paired with faux wife 'Kate'(Demi Moore) and kids 'Mick'(Ben Hollingsworth) and 'Jenn' (Amber Heard). Lacquered in the finest plastic-fantastic wear and gadgets, the Joneses mingle at the local country clubs and high schools while their neighbours covet what they see.
Now a satire without bite is a mockery of satire, and "The Joneses" shooting script I hope is a mockery of what was once a great first draft that was watered-down. The premise of soulless con men paid to act like a family unit while schilling expensive watches is a meaty one after the economic meltdown, but where this film should be wielding a straight razor you'll only find a dull spoon. If "Happiness" made the social commentary in "American Beauty" look tame, than "The Joneses" makes "American Beauty" look like "Happiness". Even the opening credits of "Weeds" with the folk standard "Little Boxes" playing on the soundtrack has more gumption. To begin we have a healthy dose of melodrama and milquetoast comedy that smothers the thematic sting, and on top of that we have the bland direction of Derrick Borte from the pacing to the dreadful MOR soundtrack. Exacerbating the issues above are the straitjackets placed on old hell raisers like Duchovny and Moore, with both conservatively in 'aw, shucks' mode when their behaviour (and the story) could have gone into outer regions of perversity.
While it's improper to wish for a film to be more like the one you would have made, if the ending is so predictable, hackneyed and false as the one delivered here than I can only entertain myself with other possibilities as the credits rolled. A dramedy that isn't particularly dramatic and only sporadically funny, "The Joneses" could have used more reprehensible behaviour.