Advertising a new product is a tricky task. It’s one thing to just list the device’s assets, but when it comes to getting the consumer to trust the company enough to lay down the cash, there’s nothing better than a face-to-face pitch. But consumers are smart. They know the guy from Sony is going to say his camera is best and so is the guy from Canon. But if the brand is removed from the equation entirely, we get the ultimate sales team: a seemingly average family, The Joneses.
The Joneses appear to be the new folks in town, but they're actually employees of a stealth marketing company. Rather than use commercials and magazine ads to increase intrigue, they put the finest Yves Saint Laurent dress on Kate (Demi Moore), the hottest golf club in Steve's (David Duchovny) hand, the trendiest scarf around Jenn's (Amber Heard) neck and latest portable gaming device in Mick's (Ben Hollingsworth) pocket. They look like your typical family, but have a hidden agenda to make you want what they have.
But this ad doesn’t wrap and the Joneses must remain in character 24/7, save for a single day off. When honest feelings come into play they run the risk of compromising their image. Kate is 100% committed to the company and eager to attain its coveted icon status, working even during her free time. Steve is taking his job seriously in a different way: he’s got a thing for Kate and is hoping to make their relationship a reality, but her all work no play attitude sends Steve’s advances straight into a wall. As for the kiddies, they’re struggling with relationship issues of their own. Jenn is, for lack of a better word, a slut, while Mack is more timid about his feelings. All that genuine emotion poses a threat to their business endeavor.
The concept is genius and, from a marketing standpoint, makes a lot of sense. This is what makes The Joneses click right off the bat: it's relatable. With the help of an upbeat soundtrack and slick editing, director Derrick Borte lures you in just as the Joneses entice their neighbors. The first half of the film is primarily devoted to introducing this marketing technique, a selling ploy itself that sometimes backfires-- Kate's efforts to pull a fast one on her friends sometimes feel like they apply to the audience as well, and when company bigwig Sylvia's (Catherine Dyer) runs through the family's monthly stats on their beautiful big screen, the graphics are unnecessarily simplistic and almost demeaning.
But The Joneses earns your trust so early on that it's possible to gloss over the film’s minimal faults. Duchovny earns your heart immediately as Steve, an ex-car salesman and the newest member of the unit who is the only one to retain a conscience. The other three Joneses don’t get a chance to shine until the end. As the film progresses Moore's all-business attitude cracks and a little humanity is revealed, and both Hollingsworth and Heard have their moments as well, packing an impressive emotional punch considering how little time their characters are given as opposed to Mom and Dad.
Beyond the core family, the Joneses’ neighbors Summer and Larry (Glenne Headly and Gary Cole), are the only characters worth mentioning and they certainly earn the recognition. Each are quite literally trying to keep up with Joneses, Summer as a cosmetic sales rep and Larry buying new gadgets, and they provide a necessary counterpoint to the fake Jones family. Both Headly and Cole are flawless in their roles and are the only relatable faces among the townsfolk/target consumers, who are otherwise generalized as a band of wealthy snobs.
The Joneses manages to use its own premise to its benefit, making you feel part of the Joneses scheme. But unlike some advertising campaigns, this movie isn’t trying to pull a fast one on the viewer. You get what you’re paying for, a unique dramedy that has more to offer than you’d expect. It’s an exceptionally thoughtful piece, not only in terms of consumerism, but when considering the value of compassion as well. From critic to moviegoer, The Joneses is worth your hard earned money, no strings attached.