The Joneses look like the perfect family, which is exactly the idea.Steve (David Duchovny) and Kate (Demi Moore) are supposedly happily married and meant to be the proud parents of high schoolers Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) and Jenn (Amber Heard). But soon enough, we’re let in on their little secret: they’re a marketing squad, sent in to sell the image of ideality and flaunt countless new products along the way. Steve pushes the golf clubs, Kate the track suits, Mick the video games and Jenn the make-up, and they’re supposed to keep it strictly professional… which we know they won’t, because then it wouldn’t be a movie.
Making his directorial debut, Derrick Borte takes a modest approach to his satiric premise, charming us with the sight of the Joneses going through the paces of charming the neighbors (specifically Gary Cole and Glenne Headly), of Steve not sleeping with his fake wife and yet being seduced by his fake daughter, of Kate making sure that everyone meets their monthly quotas in order to appease their supervisor (Lauren Hutton). It’s some work, hocking a living, and yet Borte doesn’t push too hard; this is the type of this particular movie you get when you cast someone as droll as David Duchovny when the material begs for Aaron Eckhart in full-on Thank You for Smoking mode.
And it comes as no shocker when the strictly-professionals do fall for each other, but Duchovny and Moore sell the sparks as much to us as they do the locals. It shouldn’t surprise either that some close friend will become the sacrificial lamb after trying so very hard to keep up with the you-know-whos and racking up debt with each new expense. But amidst the con-movie seam-showing/attack-of-conscience motions that propel the third act, Borte grows hopeful that a makeshift family as dysfunctional as this one might work for one another as much as they work with one another. After all, who better to open their arms to such devious individuals? (More importantly: who else?)It’s a sappy sentiment, to be sure, and there are sharper barbs to be mined from the stealth-marketing pitch – the film doesn’t even damn its own inherent product placement – but as 'The Joneses' morphed from sly comedy to heavy-handed cautionary tale to hopeful fable and back again, I bought into it all the way.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Dallas International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Dallas International Film Festival series, click here.