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Movie Review: The Joneses

April 15, 2010
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Note:  spoilers for this movie begin about five minutes into its running time.  I am going to try not to include spoilers, so if the plot seems rather vague, that is why.

David Duchovny and Demi Moore play Kate and Steve Jones, an impossibly gorgeous couple who are moving into a monstrous mansion in an affluent neighborhood that makes all the other Mcmansions on the block pale in comparison. They have two impossibly gorgeous teen aged children, the dashing Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) and the seductive Jenn (Amber Heard.)

All four members of the family are perfectly coiffed and clothed, and just prior to their arrival, a semi-truck delivered a houseful of designer furniture, ensuring that a perfectly decorated residence awaits. However, there are hints that the Joneses are not exactly what they appear to be.  When they pull up to their mansion, they squeal and delight that it is perfect, apparently they have never laid eyes on it until just then.  That’s odd, and more puzzling revelations occur throughout the first third of the movie.

Meet the Joneses

The Jones family members are charismatic, and soon they are the popular folks on the block.  The children quickly acclimate to their new school and presto-they are popular.  Kate spends her days getting mani-pedis and facials, while Steve engages in daily rounds of golf.  Living is easy for the Joneses.

The family soon find themselves in the role of trendsetters for the community.  If Kate wears a tracksuit during her morning walk, the next day all the women on the block have it.  If Steve has a new golf club, all the men clamor for it.  Everybody wants to be just like the Joneses, and no expense is spared.

So what happens when people cannot afford to keep up with the Joneses?  That is the ugly reality that is explored in this biting social satire that couldn’t be more timely. The Joneses casts a light on consumerism, marketing, debt, greed, and our general tendency to expect instant gratification.  In an all too realistic scene, one character who is drowning in debt actually considers buying a flat screen television just because he sees an ad promising “no payment for 6 months.”  It’s a true sign of the times.

The Jones family is somewhat vilified in the movie, but when you acquire debt in the pursuit of the luxury lifestyle, you have no one to blame but yourself.

I actually enjoyed seeing Duchovny and Moore on screen together.  They were well cast for these roles, and Duchovny brings some understated humor to the story.

Gary Cole and Glenn Headly play Kate and Steve’s neighbors, Larry and Summer.  Larry dreams of being intimate with his wife, but all she cares about is selling her cosmetic/skin care line.  She practically assaults Kate with a sales pitch as soon as she moves in.

The Joneses has a really great premise at its core, although it is not perfectly executed.  I didn’t buy the tidy ending, or the obligatory love story thrown into the movie.  It seemed like a ploy to placate studio heads or marketers.

However, I think The Joneses has a lot of value because of its timeliness, and  it explores some of the consequences of our ravenous need to acquire material possessions.  It serves as a dark, witty wake up call to our increasingly shallow and greedy sensibilities.

Rating 3.5/5

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