Sunday, 25 April 2010

Review: The Joneses

Year: 2009 (2010 UK release)
Director: Derrick Borte
Screenplay: Derrick Borte
Starring: David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard, Ben Hollingworth, Gary Cole

Synopsis is here

NOTE: This review may give away a touch of the films "twist", HOWEVER, the trailer alone gives away much of the film so it might not be that much of a surprise.

Bit of a surprise for me this one. The trailer was pretty unassuming, the leads haven't been seen in any recent movie of note, I had never heard of the director and I felt I knew too much about the movie before I went into it. Bad Times.

Not so however, as The Joneses was quite an interesting watch despite the movie slightly losing it's nerve near the end. It's not angry film, but it's shot with enough cynicism to feel quite squirmy at times. Borte (an advertising man, so I've read) has eye for the subject matter and he quickly sets up the cloak of smoke and mirrors with well placed shots of characters in front of mirrors. Nothing too subtle, but it sets the mind working and helps push the ideas through.

As an veiled attack on marketing, at times the Joneses does quite well. As we settle into the idea of the plastic family, one slowly begins to wonder how easy this could be to be placed into practice and how easily lead we would be to such a design. Borte's scenes at times are both quietly droll and unsettling at the same time. The focus on the teens worked best with me, with both teenagers being beyond good looking (one of them the ridiculously hot Amber Heard). The scenes quickly set these characters up as popular and then trendsetters, and have a touch of realism about it, mostly because the teens being targeted at just right to be plucked and a quick smile and chat could easily have them gasping for what these guys want. With this said there's a nice battle set up between the lead character Steve (Duchovny) and Larry (very watchable Gary Cole) leads to a climax that is (once again) not subtle but still very timely and hits the nail on the head.

There are issues however, with the film, such as the movies product placement, which is pushed to the forefront due to the films story. Problem is of course it also serves as nice set up for whatever the brand is that is lucky enough to be placed in the forefront. Awkward as that may sound considering the subject matter, it is not as not as bad as the films latter moments in which emotional response does battle with Hollywood cookie cutter film production. You get the feeling that the film could push this material all the way, however it recedes and plays the film safer than it should have, but then how far could the film push, considering the position it's put in.

With this said, the film's performances keep enough fuel in the tank, until the films last moments and the well picked choices of Demi Moore and David Duchovny are a refreshing change from the typical A list choices that could have been picked for this endeavor. Kudos also goes to Amber Heard, who clearly has a little teen wild child role. One low note would be Ben Hollingsworth, who becomes pretty anonymous when the film really comes to the crunch.

As a whole, The Joneses has it's moments and is more than playful enough with them. It had enough wit to keep me grinning and sharp enough to keep me involved and engaged. I'm sure my brain will push out this movie come next week when I get to see Iron Man 2, but until then The Joneses will remain an interesting watch with a nice concept.