American culture gets a good examination every once in a while from some ambitious writers and directors. But in Derrick Borte’s “The Joneses,” culture doesn’t get examined so much as it gets slapped in the face. It’s an address on the state of the American Dream in 2010 where the goal is no longer to better ourselves but to be better than everyone else.
Our image-driven consumer society hasn’t been so heavily satirized in quite some time, and because it’s a movie that speaks to our recession-weary minds, “The Joneses” arrives at the perfect time. Companies with something to sell hire family units like the Joneses to promote their products in affluent neighborhoods. Much like staging a house to sell it, the Joneses move into a neighborhood to sell an image. They are a true model of excess, decked out with the latest gadgets, fashions, and utilities. Reflecting the corporate values that more things makes you happier, each member of the family waltzes around town with a fixed smile and an aura of mystery, arousing curiosity and spiking sales.
The movie is spot-on with its lambasting of consumerism, yet it shows a few minor flaws when trying to delve into typical romantic comedy territory with subplots. It’s just business between “Kate” (Demi Moore) and “Steve” (David Duchovny), but he wants to add a little bit of pleasure to their fake relationship despite her insistence on keeping everything matter of fact. Much more tolerable are daughter “Jenn” (Amber Heard) and her scandalous affair on the side and son “Mick” (Ben Hollingsworth) as he struggles with identity issues.
In spite of everything, though, “The Joneses” still emerges victorious as it hammers the main focus home through and through, even daring to deliver a heartbreakingly devastating and jarring conclusion. Borte integrates humor and a thought-provoking critique of contemporary society so flawlessly that you’ll wonder why all comedies can’t be this good. A- /