Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sharp "Joneses" keeps up the freshness, until soft finale

The Joneses look like the perfect family


The Joneses (2010)
96 min., rated R
Grade: B

The phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” is the springboard for ad-man writer-director Derrick Borte's debut, The Joneses, a shrewd, offbeat satire about consumerism, conformity, and socio-economic superiority.

Here, the Joneses appear to be the picture-perfect modern family—father Steve (David Duchovny), mother Kate (Demi Moore), and teenage children Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mitch (Ben Hollingsworth)—when moving into a huge, luxurious home in a glitzy suburban neighborhood out of Stepford. As it turns out, they are a “pretend” family, or more of a team really (Steve the rookie and Kate the veteran), made up of self-marketing salespeople for the newest brands, toys, and products.

It's real product-placement, but within context!

In peddling their message of buy-to-impress, the Joneses surely keep up their popularity and sales percentages, and make people want to emulate them, but Steve starts to feel for the family, especially his fake wife.

Borte's film has conceived an ingeniously fresh premise and the fun goes far, even if it does take a third-act misstep when things turn sentimentally “real” and the Joneses have to start acting like an actual family.

The cast is quite good too; Moore, agelessly sexy and believable as a tough, focused business shark; Duchovny, charismatic and wry as the audience's conscience; and Heard and Hollingsworth are talented enough young actors to pull off the display-model act with personal character crisises. Lauren Hutton also co-stars as the “unit” boss who comes to appraise their work.

Although not as scathing as it could've been, The Joneses is such a breath of fresh air—for one, it's not a remake or in 3-D.

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