Review: The Joneses (2010)

Directed by: Derrick Borte
Starring: David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard

There’s always something to appreciate about timely, socially relevant satire, whether the topic in question has been beaten to death or not. Derrick Borte’s The Joneses is easily likable because of this, transforming an age-old, shopworn expression into a respectable but flawed piece of filmmaking that sheds light on a subject just about everyone has been exposed to in one way or another: excessive materialism. While the film indeed treads where others haven’t and remains at least partially effective in conveying its underlying message to the public, The Joneses ends up suffering on account of one too many heavy-handed missteps made by Borte in relation to the script in its entirety.

It sure is refreshing to stumble upon something as cosmetically appealing as The Joneses in terms of an admittedly intriguing premise, yet writer/director Borte’s obvious inexperience so clearly prohibits it from being everything it could have been. The surprisingly clever twist that’s unearthed early on proves to be very efficient in both piquing our interest as viewers and establishing its satirical poise, and coupled with a suitable sense of humor, really lets the film shine during its more enjoyable sequences. As things chug along however, it becomes almost embarrassingly apparent that what The Joneses ends up suffering from is a brash unevenness of tone once its darker emotional underbelly rises to the surface during its latter act.

Does Borte essentially lets the film disintegrate into a brooding and unappealing mess at this point? Sadly, yes he does, and although these moments aid primarily in fleshing out each character’s previously camouflaged vices, they also serve as the film’s general downfall in forcing it to stray entirely too far from what it originally sets out to be. Fortunately, some of these elements do manage to shed light on what we lose touch of in the wake of our insatiable desire to spend, spend, spend, and each character’s eventual maturation is relatively engaging and provides for a partially satisfying yet ultimately formulaic conclusion.

Excellent performances across the board manage to compensate for some of the shortcomings I’ve mentioned, with Duchovny and Moore graduating at the top of their class. Personally, I felt certain aspects of Duchovny’s Steve are most definitely reminiscent of that of his more recent roles, Californication notably, but his obvious knack for playing said roles to near perfection definitely complements his efforts here to the fullest. Moore is equally as impressive; this particular role is quite easily one of her best to date, and although all involved do benefit from deftly crafted characters and often clever dialogue, the sheer charisma our two leads and each member of the supporting cast bring to the table is enough to elevate The Joneses at least slightly above full-blown mediocrity.

As an effective social commentary on our nation’s penchant for indulging in excessive spending, The Joneses is only partially successful. Despite a very promising opening act, the film ultimately falls flat when it attempts to morph into a heavy-hearted look at several individuals’ struggle to break free from their predetermined lifestyles. An appropriate sense of humor and a handful of outstanding performances are easily its strongest suits, but it’s only fair to say that the production as a whole would’ve benefited greatly from a slightly more experienced director in relation to an apparent lack of focus amongst its other defects. If you’re looking for something a little offbeat and refreshingly relevant from a social standpoint, I recommend you still give this one a go.

Rating: 5/10

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