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In a beautiful written piece for the New York Times, Trevor Noah paints a picture of his childhood with his mother

The Joneses

2010-10-25 11:59
The Joneses
What it's about:

A picture-perfect American family move into an upper-middle class residential area and charm their new neighbours and friends. Behind closed doors, the reality of their existence is revealed to be nothing more than a complex marketing strategy for a number of big ticket brands to sell their wares.

What we thought:

We all know people like the Joneses. They're the family we wish we were part of: attractive, successful, charming and always hooked up with the best and latest technology, clothing, cars, accessories and all those little things that make life a little, no, a lot more pleasurable. They always speak in excited tones about their newest gadget and highly recommend that you get it for yourself.

I used to find it funny when friends would swear by some 'miracle' new cream or potion they've discovered, and then try to win over my trust with the disclaimer, "I don't own shares in the company or anything". Then we'd chortle together on our way to the mall so that I can improve my life tenfold with said product. It's probably the way I've accumulated half the things in my life. Because people I trusted told me I should.

Here is a movie that suggests it could all be an elaborate con. Imagine your trusted friend was actually hired by a company to flog their products through the tried-and-trusted word of mouth marketing strategy. It might sound ludicrous, but in Derrick Borte's brightly lit dark comedy, it's revealed to be a startlingly effective tool for companies to target their intended demographic very, very precisely.

David Duchovny and Demi Moore play the not-really-married couple Steve and Kate Jones. Together with their fake teenage kids, Jenn and Mick (Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth) they worm their way into affluent suburban society – the golf courses, dinner parties and school gyms where people of a feather flock together and make small talk. And in these hallowed cloisters, the "Joneses" are able to work their magic on a bunch of clueless schmucks who grow ever more desperate to, well, keep up with the Joneses.

One such sucker is next-door neighbour Larry Symonds (Gary Cole) who wears his envy on his sleeve and maxes out every credit card to have what the Joneses have. Larry, and his equally skittish wife Summer, is a blatantly radical representation of the upwardly mobile middle classes who'd rather drown in debt than be without, a collective that has lost all reason and contributed to plunging an entire global system into an economic recession. The Joneses makes damning account of how greed and affluence have come to shape a society and dresses it all up so prettily, like watching a graceful, balletic crash in slow motion.

This is a movie about what lies beneath, so it's a bit surprising that Moore turns out to be nothing more than window-dressing. Her Kate Jones is bland and one-note as she is beautiful and glamorous, and Duchovny's warm, charismatic performance as the failed pro-golfer turned liar-for-hire just exposes Moore's lack of colour that much more. But hey, they look great together, which is rather the point of it all.

Borte sacrifices some of the movie's punch with a predictable romance and some dodgy ideas about market intelligence, and it could certainly have done with more personality (there's only so much of Duchovny to spread around) but as a mirror held up to our times, it's pretty devastating.

A subtle dark comedy that serves as a bleak reminder of how the difference between "want" and "need" has been tragically overlooked.
Read more on:    demi moore  |  recession  |  marketing  |  movie

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