By Sandra Kraisirideja
At any given time of day people receive a slew of advertising messages from their car radios, televisions, smart phones and computers. The ads that aren’t as obvious are the ones that come from co-workers, friends, neighbors and family members. Product recommendations from trusted sources are easier to buy into, especially when the message comes from people who appear to have everything in life.
The power of “influentials” on the buying habits of Americans is addressed in “The Joneses,” a dark comedy written and directed by Derrick Borte. The attractive, wealthy, well-groomed and well-dressed family of four portrayed by David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth make up the Joneses. They are hired as individuals and then put together as a family to encourage the residents of a wealthy suburban enclave to buy as many of the latest luxury brand name clothes, appliances, technology, home decor, food and sporting goods as possible.
They accomplish this simply by using, wearing and displaying the goods to neighbors, friends, family and anyone they come across in their daily lives. The Joneses’ not only have the top of the line products, but they exude that undefinable yet instantly recognizable “it” feature that draws people in and makes them want what they have.
The downside to this need for material possessions is evident in the foreclosure market and the tent cities that sprang up after people could not longer afford to pay their mortgage and credit cards. American culture encourages excess or prudence and too many families felt they had to sink deeper into debt in order to keep up appearances. The seemingly “wealthy” status of the Joneses is a mirage since they are given everything they have. Their willful deceit is what eventually leads to their downfall.
Borte’s concept for the script is easy to believe and with the help of production designer Kristi Zea and costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus he creates a world that looks all too familiar. While Borte succeeds visually with the film, he doesn’t do as well with the script. It’s a bit weak on the subject matter and the tone should be darker. Borte misses an opportunity to really mine the topics that are raised in the movie, especially toward the end when a romantic relationship between Duchovny and Moore gives Borte the ability to tie things up in a nice bow.
“The Joneses” is a decent freshman effort by Borte, but he missed his chance to create a timely commentary on materialism and its consequences.
Photo: (from left) Ben Hollingsworth, Amber Heard, Demi Moore and David Duchovny star in “The Joneses.” Courtesy Roadside Attractions