Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Joneses

Every once in a while a high-concept film that feels like it could be transgressive portrait of modern American life. I thought that, albeit very briefly, in entering The Joneses, a twee satire about a fake family who moves into a wealthy neighborhood in order to sell their luxury items stuff around town. The films states fairly early on that they're selling not merchandise, but a lifestyle. And that lifestyle feels very much attuned to that of the American nuclear family. The father, mother-- both pretty and kind, a boy and girl. All that's missing from The Joneses is a dog and a white picket fence. It sounds like a novel setup, especially in a 2010 recession era, post-Bush America, where the middle class is evaporated. And so that's the premise to Derrick Borte's film, his directorial debut, and it's a fairly polished one at that. What needs improvement is the writing-- I kept expected the film to really show it's teeth and have real bite to it, but whenever the story got darker, Borte retreated and went soft. It's not really the problem of the actors, all of whom deserved better-- as the fake father, David Duchovney plays up his handsome charm. And in a surprise, Demi Moore as Mrs. Jones proves quite capable of earthy mother\icy businesswoman. The kids played by Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth aren't really given much to do-- she's basically a nymphomaniac, and he's a closeted homosexual-- they play their notes adequately, but that's all. Where The Joneses fails is in the ill-conceived plot contrivance of fake husband Duchovney and fake wife Moore falling for each other-- it's turns what could be bona fide delicious social satire into a sacharrine and false romantic comedy. Especially considering the relationship between Duchovney and neighbor Gary Cole, a victim who falls for all of Mr. Jones' sale pitches, is an even riper and far more relevant one. C

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