Everyone (including me) who hears about the premise of The Joneses—a picture perfect fake family moves into a tony neighborhood as part of a stealth marketing plan—says the same thing: What a clever concept!
But the more you think about—the premise isn’t all that clever. What? We live in a consumerist culture? We want to keep up with the (literal) Joneses? When the cliché is built into the title, you have to go beyond the cliché to produce satire. The Joneses doesn’t—it can’t.
Still, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained, not because The Joneses shines some probing light on our social mores, but because it is carried off with a certain measure of wit and style.
“He who dies with the most toys wins!” says Steve Jones (David Duchovny) to his golf buddies, who slap him on the back chummily.
He’s the fake husband/father in this family and a newbie to the marketing firm. He’s so new, in fact, that he develops feelings (of a matrimonial nature) toward his icy fake wife Kate (Demi Moore) and feelings (of a parental nature) toward his two fake teenage kids (played by Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth.)
It’s Kate who is most comfortable with this deception. The rest of the family have moments of doubt.
“My family just had this party to show off their stuff,” mutters Hollingsworth’s Mick, in a stoned moment of candor to a female friend.
“I know. My parents do the same thing,” she sighs. (Okay, that’s actually pretty clever.)
The Joneses aren’t just selling stuff—they’re selling themselves. Trendy, poster-sized photos of the happy family, like the one above, decorate their immaculate home. And Kate and Steve make it clear to their new friends that they have a fabulous sex life. Who wouldn’t want to be like them?
But at some point, since the film has 90-or-so minutes to fill, it feels compelled to ask: Who are Kate and Steve and why do they choose this life? And what are the consequences of their social subterfuge?
Ugh. Who cares? With a concept this high and an execution this snappy, sobering reality just gets in the way. Toward the end, The Joneses veers into "Very Special Episode" territory, and that's just a drag.