The Joneses Movie Review: Demi Moore Gets Bossy

Somewhere on the way to the future, America decided that it’s better to have a houseful of designer wear, home entertainment gadgets, and furniture with color coordinated walls, than good schools, affordable health care, and a job and home for everyone. Or did they?

Much more than just great storytelling with a knockout ensemble cast including Demi Moore and David Duchovny, The Joneses telegraphs the hard questions. Like where did we go wrong as a nation in embracing warped priorities around craving tons of consumer commodities we don’t need, as a source of self-esteem, and devaluing all the human necessities that give life value and meaning.

According to The Joneses German born writer and director Derrick Borte, we’ve basically been had by all sorts of surrounding commercial subliminal seductive forces whose existence we may barely be aware of. And Borte should know, he plied his visual craft in the corporate and advertising worlds, before turning to filmmaking to expose and condemn them.

Demi Moore and David Duchovny are Kate and Steve Jones, the parents of a picture perfect nuclear family also counting high school kids Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth). Taking up residence in a swanky suburban gated Atlanta community, the Joneses quickly become the envy of just about everyone in town from neighbors to high schoolers and the local golf enthusiasts, because they own more luxury goods and designer duds than anyone else around. And they’re not shy about letting everybody else know how to get their hands on that costly stuff too, essentially giving cynical new meaning to the notion of selling yourself, if not marrying for money.

And as the pretend family concealing their own personal inner damaged goods goes undercover, with Demi as bossy head of household and Duchovny as less than enthusiastic wimp spousal sidekick, they take orders from the insidious main branch as to creating and marketing desire in their gullible neighbors. And for possessions they don’t actually need and in many cases can’t afford, while targeting their victims’ sense of personal inadequacy or lack of self-fulfillment with quick fix remedies, for the ultimate goal of the smoothly perfected art of the sell and company profits.

A horror movie in its own way but more giddy than gory, The Joneses takes the creepy premise of say, The Stepford Wives and its obedient, robotic consumerism, to the commercially invasive next level of in-your-face upscale pseudo-marital marketing. And where the cultivated compulsion to consume and possess inevitably becomes an end in itself, surrounding that empty shell of existence grounded in meaningless materialism, and the metaphorical price to be paid. While transforming the movie screen into a mirror, reflecting back in chilling dramatic detail on a spectator society that may have lost its way.

Roadside Attractions

Rated R

4 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.