People envy their neighbors and are willing to do - or buy - what it takes to be like them, according to the light drama The Joneses, which stars David Duchovny and Demi Moore as an enterprising "couple" who live and breathe product placements. The movie didn't do well in theaters but is a surprisingly decent film, albeit one that doesn't make a strong impact one way or the other.
In The Joneses, Duchovny and Moore play a fake married couple who move into a beautiful new home in Scottsdale, AZ with their two fake children, played by Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth. Together, the family proves that by buying the best things they can be the best, and their decisions quickly begin to influence their neighbors, most notably a repressed businessman played by Gary Cole. However, the reality is that the family is a group of traveling salespeople who seek to influence buying decisions by making subtle recommendations and are guided by sales numbers. In other words, they lie about everything they are and do.
Directed by German filmmaker Derrick Borte, The Joneses is a curious little picture that has a great premise, but just adequate execution. Duchovny leads the way with his natural charm, playing a character who is torn between his luxurious lifestyle and the fact that he is deceitful to just about everyone he knows. He carries the film on his shoulders and does a good job of it.
The supporting cast is also good, though they lack the character development Duchovny received. Moore is a good counterpart to Duchovny, but her character isn't given enough qualitative screen time to allow the audience to make a decision toward her one way or the other. The "children" actually have interesting storylines, as Hollingsworth has a secret he's hiding and Heard is consistently horny. But the movie shies away from giving them full storylines. Once Hollingsworth's secrets have been revealed, his character is practically abandoned without resolution. As for Heard's, the movie fails to capitalize on a unique dynamic where she is attracted to her "father," who isn't really her father (and it's alluded to the fact that she's a bit crazy when it comes to mind, but this isn't fully fleshed out either). In fact, it's never explained just how old the children are; if they are actually adults, which is the assumption, their high school existence should have been explored more.
Cole once again delivers a fine performance as the dramatic center of the picture; he's the one honest character and the one the audience will relate to most.
The Joneses is easy to watch and more or less entertaining, but it suffers because it doesn't have a defined genre. It's not a comedy, because it isn't funny. But its concept has a satirical element to it that, aside from one specific plot turn, makes it too light to be considered a serious drama. It isn't clear what emotions the director was attempting to evoke from the audience.
Neither funny nor dramatic, The Joneses falls into a nebulous blend of genres that restrains its ability to leave a lasting impression. Still, it has a neat concept and is enjoyable to watch. Recommended, but it's one that could just as easily be skipped.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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