Steve Jones (David Duchovny), his wife Kate Jones (Demi Moore) and their high-school-aged kids Jenn Jones (Amber Heard) and Mick Jones (Ben Hollingsworth) drive up to a house in an upscale subdivision they will call home per their contracts. Just as they will call one another husband, wife, mom, dad, son, daughter, brother and sister in the presence of their new friends, neighbors and classmates. Their employer is a marketing firm that places them and every product they use for purposes of increasing local sales via their lifestyle. “The Joneses” starts with a twenty-minute slow reveal of this set-up that includes a pervy tease when nude Jenn climbs into Steve’s bed. Derrick Borte writes and directs this satiric romance packaged as a middle-brow commentary on buzz marketing, behavioral economics and what NBC TV execs call “behavior placement.” “If people like you, they will want what you’ve got,” is the company line by their boss (Lauren Hutton, host of “Junket Whores,” Bravo’s exposé of Hollywood publicity apparatus). In his press notes, Borte drops no names; not Thorstein Veblen, nor Vance Packard. “The Joneses” is a puritanical take on materialism. Prostituting yourself for a product, Borte hints, is not all that different from other ways of making a living. This facile paen to family values is ambivalent about an inauthentic life full of cool stuff and fake kin. Although the four Joneses never hype any movies, “The Joneses” is a swell, if unselfconscious pitch for screen-branded romance, as two goodlooking stars–Demi and David–drive away at the end, going for the good life of true love. With Gary Cole, Glenne Headly, Christine Evangelista, Chris Williams and product placement by Allison Robin. 93m. (Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.