By William Wolf


Conspicuous consumption is creatively examined in the unusual film “The Joneses,” which was showcased impressively at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. Written and directed by Derrick Borte, it is among the better films that I saw. It may be that the recession has slowed some of the spending we see in “The Joneses,” but no matter, as the principle is there to be satirized and remind us of excesses that have led to economic catastrophe.

At the outset the Jones family, consisting of the husband Steve (David Duchovny), wife Kate (Demi Moore), and teenage son Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) and daughter Jenn (Amber Heard), is shown moving into a very upscale unnamed American neighborhood. Their elaborate furniture is being installed in the new home, and before long one of the neighbors comes to call.

The first indication that something may not be what it seems occurs when night falls and husband and wife retire into separate bedrooms. Not getting along together perhaps? But we soon learn that theory is off the mark. It turns out that this is not a real family. The individuals are part of a unit working for a company and their mission is to inject themselves into a neighborhood, get close to people and set an example by buying the latest of everything so that neighbors become envious and go out a buy the same or similar luxuries. That is how the four earn their money—by inspiring others to keep up with the Joneses.

The story that develops involves the interaction of “family” members with each other, and their interaction with the friends they make among the neighbors, including Larry (Gary Cole) and Summer (Glenne Headly).

Moore does some of her best work as Kate, who is the cold, calculating head of the unit. She captures Kate’s ambition that keeps her fiercely focused on the job at hand. Duchovny is excellent too as Steve, who develops a romantic attachment for Kate, who fights against emotional involvement. The film, which builds to a dramatic climax, sharply raises the issue of values and the manner in which acquisitions can mask the vacuum left by insecure relationships and the uncertainties about what is most important in life.

The smart looking production design by Kristi Zea and cinematography by Yaron Orbach are especially important as visual augmentation of the film’s satirical themes. “The Jones” has something to say and says it very well indeed and quite entertainingly.


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