The Joneses (Blu-ray)
There’s nothing like a good movie trailer to get you excited for a film. THE JONESES boasted one of the better trailers I’ve seen in a while, at least when it comes to indie dramas. Of course, the actual film could not live up to the promise of the trailer and the various issues with the film made me long for something greater, especially given how much I love the idea of the film. Luckily, the film featured David Duchovny doing his normal ‘Californication’ cool (which I’m beginning to think is just how he is), which kept the film from turning stale.
The premise of the film centers on four actors/salesmen that are hired by a marketing firm to do some targeted selling in a specific neighborhood. The idea is great, even if I question the idea that four individuals could influence enough sales to justify the cost of keeping them employed, but the idea is an interesting one. The filmmakers had a tough choice to make with the story and they could either focus on the individual emotional toll the job had on the four salesmen and saleswomen or look at the broader picture and focus on the impact their selling had on the town they were in. Director and writer Derrick Borte chose somewhere in the middle, which of course meant that neither storyline was developed to its fullest extent.
Obviously, the theme of the film is that the old saying of “keeping up with the Joneses” is one of the many things that can kill the traditional American dream. The Joneses in the film embody the need people have to buy the latest gadgets or to keep up on the latest trends. The idea of a marketing firm actually hiring actors to live in a subdivision and secretly sell products is brilliant, but the theme is written in the title of the film. Therefore, the burden is on the filmmakers to run with the theme and take the audience somewhere we don’t expect to go. There are numerous side-effects to buying frivolous things, but the filmmakers used their neighbors as the only example. We needed more tragedy coming from what they were doing and we needed to see the negative impact their actions had on the school, their friends and the local businesses.
The subplots with the “kids” (Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth) were too underdeveloped and ended up being distracting. Between the “daughter” having a thing for older men and the “son” realizing he’s gay, I found myself disinterested in both of their plights. Each of their situations could have been its own film and touching on them briefly just took us away from the broader scope of the film. I also failed to understand what the purpose was of having his “girlfriend” involved in a car accident, other than the subtle context that she was drinking one of the products the family was trying to sell.
With all of the problems the film has, the originality of the story and the charm and likability of David Duchovny manage to make this an enjoyable film. Sure, I was disappointed Bort didn’t use the opportunity to make a greater statement on America’s materialistic society and I would have liked more character development, but the ride we got was enjoyable in its own right.
Video: The transfer had a few problems with colors looking washed out at times. Nothing about the video presentation popped out, leaving the film saturated and dry.
Audio: The sound also had some issues and I noticed some inconsistencies with the dialogue volume throughout the film.
Deleted Scenes (4:24): In the film, we got a peek at the interview Steve (Duchovny) did to get the job, and here we get the actual interview. I liked it and it might have been a good way to start the film. It would have been a great way to set the tone right off the bat. The other scene featured Duchovny teaching kids to play golf. I’m not sure where they would have put that scene.