The Joneses

In The Joneses, Steve Jones (David Duchovny), his wife, Kate (Demi Moore), and their two teenage children, Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) move into a wealthy suburban neighborhood. They seem to be a happy family, except for one thing: they’re not really a family. They’re actors who’ve been hired to ingratiate themselves in the local community, in order to get people to buy certain products. They soon become hugely popular, but they have their greatest impact on their next-door neighbors, Larry (Gary Cole) and Summer (Glenne Headly). Summer works for an Amway-like company that get people to sell beauty products to their neighbors. (Summer does openly what the Joneses do secretly.) At the company’s behest, she memorizes insipid platitudes about positive thinking. She refuses to have sex with Larry, because she wants to only have the company’s positive bromides on her mind before she falls asleep. Unhappy with his marriage, Larry envies the seemingly happy Steve. He tries to emulate Steve by buying all the products the latter shows him. As a result, Larry eventually finds himself carrying a mountain of debt that he can’t sustain.

The individual members of the “Jones family” are themselves corrupted by the insincerity of their actions. Mick, for example, promotes an alcoholic beverage by getting a bunch of teenagers drunk, while Jenn pursues a rich man who doesn’t love her. At the end, Steve quits in disgust, but only after he and his “family” have done terrible damage to people’s lives.

The Joneses is a satire on undercover marketing. (I must confess I didn’t know about this phenomenon until I saw this movie.) It is a criticism of how advertising permeates our society and encourages false values and reckless behavior (such as getting into debt). I thought the acting was very good. I especially liked Glenne Headly, who brought a sense of vulnerability to a character who might otherwise have seemed unsympathetic.

Although I mostly liked this film, there were a few false moments. At the end, for example, Mick, who is gay and has just come out of the closet, tells Steve that “I don’t have to pretend any more”, even though he’s still working for the company. This is apparently not meant to be ironic. Also, a scene in which Jenn tries to seduce Steve is just silly. However, such flaws don’t harm the overall impact of the film.

One Response to “The Joneses”

  1. Darren Says:

    Nice review. I hadn’t heard of the film. I’ll have to look out for it.

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