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The Joneses

"The Joneses"; a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

"The Joneses" aren't the first family to "invade" an upscale community of homes to do their scamming of the gullible and well-heeled neighbors already there. It happened about three years ago on the FX cable network. But then, the bunko-prone family was "The Riches," a comedy/drama series that had it moments.

What's different is that the Joneses aren't trying to hide the possibility they might be trailer trash like the Riches were. But they do (much in the same manner) the same bourgeois act for folks who, on gated acres, reside in mini-mansions nestled among lovely, tree-lined, suburban hills with golf links close by.

The Joneses are already upper middle-class and have impressive knowledge about the things that make life worthwhile, like fast sport cars, golf courses, fine wines, food, attire and jewelry as well as all those technological toys that sell at exorbitant prices. That's what the Joneses' ruse is: subliminally peddling high dollar items in their possession to unsuspecting people who have lots of plastic with which to spend their high disposable incomes.

The Riches, however, were written as a family: husband, wife, with two sons and a daughter. The Joneses are a complete fake: Steve, the father (David Duchovny); Kate, the mother (Demi Moore); and two young adult children, Jenn and Mick, played by Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth. No Jones in this movie script is either related or married to anyone in the foursome. But none of their marks living on adjacent cul du sacs, and who suffer from terminal sycophancy, know the Joneses' secret.

Each Jones is covertly employed by a corporation that's in the business of selling a lifestyle: one that's easy to recognize. The enterprise likes to call it "stealth marketing." Each sales cell is known as a unit. In the Jones sales cell, Kate's the boss and holds regular sales meetings with Steve, Jenn and Mick in the dining room when guests or neighbors aren't present. Their, oh so, results-oriented external sales manager is a mature woman named KC. Lauren Hutton has that role. A strict account is kept of whether each "family" member's sales figures are going up or down.

Peddling the many kinds of products that would be attractive to neighbors whose annual incomes are, at least, a $100,000 is much easier than the sell-job first-time director Derrick Borte has with his "Joneses" screenplay.

The film starts off like a whimsical satire about the insincerity frequently associated with salesmanship. Then, after what energy the movie has fades and all the Joneses are beginning to show signs of depression locked in their empty world, the script wanders off toward the serious, and finally, losing sight of what seems is its intended entertainment track, slips into a string of sappy Hallmark moments without the commercials.

Scully in skivvies

Scully in skivvies

The best way to describe "Joneses" would be to note how Steve evolves from a guy much like Hank Moody---who Duchovny plays in the Showtime series, "Californication"---to the one he's best known for: Fox Mulder, deeply reflecting on his missing, alien-abducted, little sister in "The X-Files"---and Gillian Anderson nowhere on set.

Demi Moore is back, however, looking quite mid-lifey, but with her sassy pretty self and cutely hoarse voice operational. Mr. Duchovny appears to be making advancement on the middle years, as well: thinner, slightly gaunt. "The Joneses" might've been filmed not long after Duchovny's release from a So-Cal sex rehab center. But, only Tiger Woods knows for sure.

Amber Heard, playing the phony and randy Jones daughter, is eye-catching in the part even if her motivation unravels and that Jenn turns out to be more of a wimp than the player she first appears to be.

A couple of unresolved scripted events dangled for me on leaving the theater: how did things work out for the girl who likes son Mick, and what's up with Mick after his speedy car ride with a rich buddy? Is Mick's character supposed to be a topic of humor or pity?

Yes, what is "The Joneses" supposed to make a moviegoer guy like me, feel? It might have worked better if the joke part about jiving all the neighbors into buying stuff could've been sped up and satirized further to the absurd instead of expecting an audience to believe a Hank Moody can be transformed into a Fox Mulder in just over ninety minutes with Scully away on assignment.

I can't tell if the Truth is still out there, or not.

"The Joneses" official site.

Opens wide Friday, 4/16.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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