The Joneses
dir-scr Derrick Borte
prd Derrick Borte, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Kristi Zea
with Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth, Gary Cole, Glenne Headly, Lauren Hutton, Chris Williams, Christine Evangelista, Robert Pralgo, Hayes Mercure, Andrew DiPalma
release US 16.Apr.10, UK 23.Apr.10
09/US 1h36
The Joneses
It's a tough job: Duchovny and Moore

heard cole headly
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Joneses A darkly comical satire about affluence might seem a bit ill-timed during a global recession. But a strong cast makes this film very watchable, even as it slips into melodrama.

When the gorgeous Kate and Steve Jones (Moore and Duchovny) move into a wealthy suburb with their equally alluring teens Jenn and Mick (Heard and Hollingsworth), the locals notice their fabulous clothes, gadgets and cars. And of course start trying to keep up with them. But the Joneses aren't a family: they're a team of marketing experts whose performances are measured by how they affect sales in this town. And as they work to keep their boss (Hutton) happy, their neighbours (Headley and Cole) are paying a heavy price.

Writer-director Borte films this with the gleaming magnetism of an Ethan Allen catalogue or an Audi TV spot. And watching people react to the Joneses' flashy mobile phones, freezer meals and sports kit is funny because it's so astute. As an audience, we're allowed to spot the cracks in this smiley, beautiful family. And while this is clever and entertaining, it also warns us of the sentimental narrative the script can't resist sliding into.

The main problem is that the film abandons its sharp social commentary for rather uninspired romantic and/or dramatic storylines. So just as we're hoping things will begin to crank up into something jagged and provocative, the movie becomes squishy and emotional. This isn't all bad, since the characters are so well-played. Duchovny and Moore are a wonderful screen couple; they have a perfect balance of antagonism and underlying chemistry that a better screenwriter needs to exploit.

Of the supporting cast, Cole and Headley are terrific in strongly cautionary roles, but their plot goes from silly to sad without much nuance. Heard and Hollingsworth have more interesting characters as, respectively, a teen girl obsessed with older men and a young man struggling with his own identity. But even their stories are flattened when the film ducks from its edgier themes. Much more interesting is the earlier section in which we see a well-off family all living separate lives under the same roof. Now that's something we can all identify with.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs, sexuality 19.Apr.10

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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall