May 24, 2010

The Joneses: Movie Review

Who can resist a movie where David Duchovny is being adorable?

This movie was just okay. The premise is that four salespeople pose as a family in an affluent neighborhood and "self-market" specific products. The movie set-up some really interesting discussion topics, but didn't really push the ideas far enough. The movie ended up turning into a basic "will they get together" plot, which was disappointing.

There were a couple of ideas I wish the movie had explored further. (Major spoilers ahead.)

David Duchovny's character (Steve) spends a lot of his energy marketing all of his new toys to his next door neighbor. Steve doesn't know that the neighbor is already in severe debt and can't afford to buy a rider lawn mower with a television attached. So the neighbor gets increasingly discouraged trying to keep up with Steve Jones and his infinite ability to buy expensive things. The neighbor refuses to talk to his wife about it, and eventually drives his fancy lawn mower into the pool and kills himself. A similar thing happens with the son's friend. She gets in a car accident after leaving a party drunk on the wine juice packs the son was trying to market.

The movie suggests that the suicide and the car accident are The Jones's fault. I think the whole idea of self-marketing is at best morally questionable, but what about personal responsibility? Whose fault is it really that people buy more than they can afford? Or succumb to peer pressure and get too drunk to drive? There's no discussion in the movie, it's the Jones's fault.

Another idea I liked was about living an authentic life. If you buy all the props of success and happiness, does that make you successful and happy? How much of our identity is defined by the things we buy? The Joneses aren't a real family biologically, but they end up coming together and functioning like a real family by the end. If you pretend something is real for long enough, does that make it real? Like the other idea, the movie just hints at this idea, but doesn't really delve into it enough to say anything interesting.

Even though the tone and style are completely different, this movie reminded me of the tv series Mad Men. Mad Men explores the ideas above, but in a much subtler and more powerful way. I think what ultimately disappointed me about this movie was that it had so much potential, but it couldn't rise to the challenge and deliver.

Also, the movie seemed to think its audience didn't know the premise going in. The premise that this was a fake family was clearly spelled out by the trailers, but they wasted the first quarter of the movie trying to freak the audience out, assuming they'd think it was a real family. Creepy things... like having the daughter hit on the dad. If I didn't know the premise going in, it would have been incredibly disturbing.

P.S. I did see Iron Man 2, but I'm really not going to review it. I enjoyed it, but it's exactly what you think it will be. I'm longing for a really good movie that exceeds expectations. I'm looking forward to Prince of Persia, Inception, and The Last Airbender (formally known as Avatar).

1 comment:

Jilly said...

Aw, I love David Duchovny. That was a funny preview.

Even though the plot was mediocre, it was worth it for DD.