Friday, 16 August 2013

The Joneses (and this film) Are Not What They Seem

The Joneses have just moved into a (seemingly) well-heeled suburb and brought everything their new neighbours would desire...and then some. All the men at the country club want to hit their golf balls with the same drivers swung by Steve Jones (David Duchovny) - the ladies of the hood drool over the frozen gourmet treats served by Kate (Demi Moore) - Mick Jones (Ben Hollingsworth) always draws a crowd of his new buddies when he brings out his high-end skateboard... and the girls at school can't believe the latest designer goods Jenn (Amber Herd) has on display.

"On display" is a good way of putting it - the Joneses are not a real family but rather a group of unrelated sales people put together by a marketing company to shill the expensive products put out by their clients. But things don't always go picture perfect for this "unit": there's the pressure put on by their boss (Lauren Hutton); the chilliness cast out by unit leader Kate; the fact Jenn lets her nymphomaniac tendencies run away when an attractive older male is around...and it doesn't help that Mick's inertia may be from harboring a lifestyle secret of his own.

I have read in some places that amongst the relatively few who have had a chance to catch this 2009 production that a smattering are disappointed that the black comic elements re: conspicuous consumption were not pursued with more "bite". Others seemed to find sections of the film (particularly the ending) suffering from excessive melodrama and sappiness. And some have speculated (probably correctly) that The Joneses release came too early during a recession where watching spending sprees may have made for awkward viewing. (Well, the economy still stinks in a lot of ways but you can't say you don't see the points that are made about how we are marketed to all around us now.)

Count me out of those sentiments - The Joneses works in the way I think director/co-writer Derrik Borte intended with his first feature. The points regarding mindless materialism are made early and often, so there is no need to keep hitting the audience over the head with it repeatedly. The zeitgeist issues serves as a backdrop to what this film is really about - a very human story about a guy who is uncomfortable with the skin he finds himself living in and, in spite of the economic successes he is achieving, feels the need to question what has true meaning in life. It's a responsibility in carrying the storyline that Duchovny is up for - he turns in a terrific performance and is the reason why this film succeeds as well as it does. The rest of the cast is fine but it's the former X-Files star who has to do the heavy lifting and he carries the load well.

Overall, an entertaining film which may strike some as being a little too light in some places and a little too heavy in others...but, still...these Joneses are worth keeping up with.

I say this film tastes - SURPRISINGLY SUBSTANTIAL.

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