Sunday, April 11, 2010

"The Joneses" - Movie Review



This morning, my movie class had a bonus screening of a comedy/drama called The Joneses, starring Demi Moore and David Duchovny.

Synopsis

When a group of people passing themselves off as a family move into an upscale suburban neighborhood to market various products to the residents, will their plan unravel after their neighbors' lives begin to spiral downward?

Story

The Joneses are the perfect family.  Or are they?  Are they perfect?  Are they even a family?  Well, their neighbors certainly seem to think that they are both -- as well as good friends and admirable American consumers with all of the right possessions in life.  Whether it's clothing, appliances, gadgets or furniture, The Joneses seem to have it all ... making their neighbors quite envious and wondering if they can keep up with them.  Steve (Duchovny) plays the role of the patriarch, although he's very vague when telling people exactly what he does for a living.  The real boss of the family is his wife Kate (Moore), who leads both Steve and their two teenage "children" Jenn and Mick in sales growth in the product marketing company for which they all work.  Rapidly on her way to icon status with her superior performance, Kate becomes concerned that Steve's lagging behind will hold her back and hurt her career. 

Once Steve learns that he may lose his job due to his relatively poor numbers, he decides to step up his game to show he's worth keeping.  Enlisting the skills he learned in his previous career as a car salesman and combining them with his charismatic personality, Steve makes many new friends and quickly persuades quite a good deal of people with the gifts of jewelery for his wife, his new sports car and the golf clubs he impresses his fellow players with when he shoots the lowest score in the foursome.  By now, Steve has managed to turn things around to his favor and it is he, not Kate, who is being regarded with icon status by their employer.  Steve, however, has his sights set on another goal -- winning the heart of the cold, aloof but beautiful Kate, who is so career - driven that she has never even considered settling down, much less with any one of the men whom the product marketing company hires to play her husband.

Soon, the influence of this clan's material nature has a very negative impact on the rest of the community.  Between drunk driving accidents, closeted homosexuality, extramarital affairs and going in debt to the point that a bank will foreclose on the home of one family, the life of almost everyone The Joneses have touched has been ruined.  As a result, Steve begins to question whether or not he is really cut out for this kind of business and the fact that he will spend a career basically living a lie around the people whom he befriends.  But will Steve's pangs of guilt cause him to reveal the truth to his neighbors, thus threatening the livelihood of his corporately - engineered "family"?

Review

If you are one of those people who get irritated by product placement in movies, then you will either really love or really hate "The Joneses" because the entire movie is all about product placement.  Initially starting out as a comedy, it eventually takes some rather dark turns.  In the event you are able to see past this movie's flaws -- of which there are many -- you might like "The Joneses".  I would recommend it with reservations -- while certainly not a great movie, it's not too bad, either, depending on whether or not you can buy into the initial premise and see past its imperfections, as I stated.  Also in the cast was one of my favorite actresses, Glenne Headly, who seems to have perfected the ditsy character role; additionally, Lauren Hutton makes a rare screen appearance -- judging from her looks, decades of hard partying seem to have caught up with her as time has not been her friend, by any means.

In the post - screening discussion, the class was very heavily divided on this movie; I was one of those that liked it, but there were some that couldn't get on the ride simply because they could not believe the setup to begin with -- our instructor was one of those who felt this way, stating that while the idea of the movie was interesting to him, it seemed a little too ridiculous to be even remotely believable (he even managed to toss around the $5 words like "jejune" and "reductio ad absurdum" to describe this movie -- I guess he felt he needed to give us an education for the money we're paying to take this course at New York University).  For me, it hit some positive notes about consumerism, especially in the wake of the current economic conditions in which we have found ourselves for far too long.

Summing up, I'd say most of you could probably wait for this movie to hit cable or to be rented/downloaded -- I say this although on balance, I liked the movie despite having some misgivings.  It is, in fact, those misgivings that keep me from giving it a stronger recommendation.  Among the problems I had with the story was the fact that I didn't believe the arc of certain characters and also, I found the ending to be extremely contrived and not keeping in line with some of the characters' nature.