by M. Faust
There was a cable TV series a few years ago called The Riches, starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as a couple of “travelers” (American gypsies who work bunco schemes) who, with their two children, move into the mansion of an upper-middle-class family and pass themselves off as the owners. It was cancelled after less than two seasons, which was a shame because there were so many more issues it could have explored (it was intended to last seven seasons). I felt the same way about this film, which has a somewhat similar theme. We first see the Jones family moving into a ritzy new house in an obviously expensive neighborhood. They are Steve (David Duchovny), Kate (Demi Moore), and teens Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth). They clearly don’t relate in the way most families do, and it’s not far into the movie before we learn why: They are employed as stealth marketers, hired to go into a community and present an attractive example of product use. They don’t sell jewelry or golf clubs or frozen sushi: They simply use them, and look great doing so, planting the subliminal notion in the minds of their neighbors that maybe their lives would improve if they bought the same stuff. (Schemes like this actually exist, though not on this level. Not yet, anyway.)
It’s a rich premise that can go in a lot of different directions, and I would make a great series. (Not on network TV, of course—who would buy ads for a show satirizing marketing?) Problem is that it’s too rich for a single film to properly exploit, at least in the hands of first-time filmmaker Derrick Borte (who used to work in advertising). Working from a story by Randy T. Dinzler, Borte wants both to satirize materialism (can you really buy a toilet that opens for you and plays “The Look of Love” while you use it?) and explore this faux family whose alienation from each other is not too different from the experience of many real families. Duchovny and Moore are well cast, he as the newest team member who has more scruples than he realizes, she as the hard-nosed businesswoman for whom it is all work. It’s well worth seeing even if it leaves you wanting, though by all means leave a minute before it’s over: The ending is the one part that rings utterly false.
Watch the trailer for The Joneses
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