The Joneses
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Theatrical Release Date: 04/16/2010
Director: Derrick Borte
Cast: David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth, Gary Cole, Glenne Headly, Lauren Hutton, Christine Evangelista

How well do you know your neighbors? Is there a new family down the street that seem like they were lifted straight out of some trendy catalog, sporting the latest threads, driving the newest cars and living life like it was a Ricky Martin song? Well if so, they just might be secretly trying to influence what purchases you and your friends make as part of some elaborate stealth marketing scheme.

At least, that’s the idea behind writer/director Derrick Borte’s new film, “The Joneses”. In it, David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth play a ‘family’ whose job consists of becoming the trend setters in a posh neighborhood and getting people to spend all their hard earned money (and extended credit) on whatever their corporate bosses want to push this season.

It’s an intriguing premise, allowing for the examination not only of consumer behavior but also the psyche of people who live a lie in order to make money and keep their actual identities a secret from even themselves.

Duchovny and Moore share a surprisingly good chemistry and both they and their “kids” gave excellent performances. Each member of the family gets some actual character development (though the adults get the much larger share of that) and it was fascinating to watch them all struggle to keep the professional and personal from mixing.

Their involvement in the community has far reaching effects, most notably on their next door neighbors played smartly by Gary Cole and Glenn Headly. Like nearly everyone in the film, they are also presenting a false front to the world and as the film reaches its conclusion, the facade comes crashing down.

Speaking of the film’s ending, here’s where Borte might have wanted to step back and think things through. Whether it was a note from the producers or of his own volition, this film works quite effectively up until the last five to ten minutes. This isn’t a story of happy, shiny people who are on a path to finding enlightenment and bliss. Each character is broken in some way and while it’s appropriate to see them learn from their mistakes, making sure to dot the last few pages of the script with smiley faces seems disingenuous – especially in contrast to one of the consequences that results towards the final scenes.

One thing I definitely will say is that the luxury items presented in the film are done so beautifully … and the consumer in me wants some new toys now. It’s actually a bit confusing to watch a film about the accumulation of possessions and the ramifications of taking that too far, when American society is so wrapped up in that very culture. For that, I commend Borte quite a bit.

As such, I really wanted to like this film more and had it simply gone to black a few scenes before it did, “The Joneses” would have gotten a stronger recommendation, rather than an acceptable 3 out of 5. If you’re really interested in this, just wait a bit and catch it on whatever pay channel you subscribe to … your wallet will thank you.