2010, R, 96 min. Directed by Derrick Borte. Starring David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth, Gary Cole, Glenne Headly, Lauren Hutton.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 16, 2010
The Joneses are just a regular suburban American family – Mom, Dad, two teenage kids (a boy and a girl, of course) – the kind of people whom wealthy suburbanites aspire to be and “keep up with.” Each member a handsome specimen of physical beauty and personal charm, the family as a whole appears to be the living consummation of their upscale lifestyle. In another movie, the Joneses might be grifters out to fleece the community or deep-undercover detectives trying to infiltrate the secrets of someone’s ill-gotten wealth. But in an angle perfectly suited to our times, writer/director Borte deposits the family into the midst of a wealthy suburban enclave for other surreptitious goals: The Joneses are a stealth marketing team, employed to lure their neighbors and classmates into purchasing all the products they so ably model as a living tableaux. Everyone wants whatever it is the Joneses are consuming, be it golf clubs, beauty products, flat screens, gourmet goods, or apparel. The stunning attractiveness of the Joneses is proof of the efficacy of these items. For maybe one-third to half of the film, Borte’s premise works beautifully. The jokes are generally amusing, and the idea of a stealth marketing team is truly intriguing and plausible. Moore and Duchovny are well-cast as Kate and Steve Jones, gracing the film with their generally sardonic line deliveries and cool presence. Kate is the team leader, who keeps her eye on the prize of moving up the corporate ladder; Steve is a newcomer on his first assignment and learning the ropes. Heard and Hollingsworth play the high schoolers, who hook their classmates on every new consumer item they’re assigned to pimp. Cole and Headly, longtime masters of slyly satiric stylings, are the neighbors whose debt spirals out of control because of their friendship with the Joneses, while Hutton is the off-site majordomo of the operation. But around the midway point, the film’s cultural critique falls by the wayside as the Joneses are hit with psychodrama after psychodrama. The tone shifts from comedy to moralistic cautionary tale, in which every event is utterly foreseeable. The Joneses never recovers from this sense of its bottom having dropped out. It makes the eventual happy ending seem sillier than it might have if we had felt as though we were still watching a comedy. Borte may have lost his way on this film, but there is one thing he has done for America: He has demonstrated the correct way of spelling the plural of the surname Jones. Grammarians, if few others, will be satisfied.