The Joneses Movie Review 

Is it worth it keeping up with the Joneses?

That’s a question the 2009 Comedy “The Joneses” constantly asks the audience.

When I saw the film starring Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard, and Ben Hollingsworth for the first time in theaters over a decade ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Even now, it stuck with me.

It’s a poignant take on consumerism and that drive to fit in by having all of the right stuff. But, of course, what’s impressive about this movie is that it came out before the wide adoption of social media sites like Instagram, where having the right stuff is essential. 

The movie calls their form of marketing ’self-marketing,’ which is close to the social concept of influencers but way more secretive. The writers got the influence of the influencers right but couldn’t predict that influencers would be so shameless in their push of products that they would be open about it. That’s not a shot at influencers. They are modern salespeople disguised as lifestyle bloggers or ‘brands’. In fact almost everyone is an influencer in some way. I’ve even written plenty of sponsored articles in my time. No shade here. 

The Joneses: What’s the premise? 

Okay, the idea is both wild and genius. Perfect for a modern comedy. 

The movie follows the perfect white family, the Joneses, that moves into a new wealthy American suburb and quickly becomes the most popular family in town. The twist is that the family is fake. They are all actors/ marketers who get paid a lot of money to infiltrate new neighborhoods with high buying power so they can increase sales of luxury products such as Audi automobiles and jewelry from Van Cleef & Arpels. The movie’s tagline is: “They’re not just living the American Dream. They’re selling it.” 

How are they able to do this? Well, the movie makes it seem pretty simple. First, an organization puts together the perfect family; a classic 4 unit of husband, wife, son, and daughter who are incredibly good-looking and charismatic. The fake family then establishes themselves in their respective domains, such as the high school, country club, or hair salon, to gain the trust of their neighbors and peers, who are completely oblivious that they’re being sold. 

They recommend products to them as any friend would do. For example, when at the golf range, Steve Jones, played by the charismatic David Duchovney, recommends his clubs to his new buddies because they added 40 yards to his drive.   

After gaining the trust, they can recommend all of the newest and coolest things in every category, from beverages to vacations, and they do a fantastic job at it. Until, of course, there are unfortunate events that cause the whole thing to unravel. You can watch the trailer here.  

Why should you care about The Joneses?

The Joneses is a well-made film. It’s a slick, quick outing (96 min) that’s well shot, written, and acted. I would say it’s hilarious in the first half, and then it gets darker in the second. 

The Joneses is one of those movies that makes you think about your spending habits and your desire to want all of the “right stuff.”. Is it believable? No, not in 2022, but companies are so quickly able to infiltrate our lives that it’s not hard to imagine this type of guerilla marketing in the near, dystopian-esque future, especially with customer acquisition costs going up so much.  

I’ve always been someone who notices brands, like what shoes a person is wearing or the logo of the car someone’s driving. Not that I’m one to make a judgment. Maybe I do judge subconsciously, but it’s just silly in some cases. Should you care if someone is wearing Nike sneakers at the gym versus Under Armor ones? But of course, Nike and Under Armor spend millions in marketing campaigns to make you think that people will. No one ever wants to wear undesirable sneakers or drive an undesirable car. Of course, the root of the desire is always a tricky one.

The Joneses: Modern Materialism

It makes one ask the question, why do we want the material things we want? Is it because someone is good at marketing to our communities or us? Will it make us feel better once I have it, or will we appreciate it less? Do Nike’s really make you run faster or jump higher?

Buying necessary things can be great, right? When your laptop breaks, it’s nice to buy the latest model because you believe it will be the best for your needs. When you search for a car, you usually want the best you can afford. Marketing and branding are ways for companies to show you which items are best suited to solve your problems or ignite your desires. We do often ask friends and family for recommendations about things to buy. In these instances, we do not assume that our friends will make money from their advice, as an influencer might, making the transaction feel more genuine. 

That’s one of the reasons the concept is so clever. In addition, the characters are so convincing and seemingly genuine that the people of the town have no clue that they are selling them a lifestyle, making the strategy that much stronger. 

Why it’s not perfect

One of the main issues with the movie is how little intelligence it gives to the other characters. Sure the Joneses family are attractive, and it makes sense that others would want to buy the same things to keep up with them, but it goes to extremes to make a point. I like that the family sometimes grapples with what they’re doing, but I wish the film covered it in more detail. Again it’s a short comedy, but I think the concept is so strong that they could have gone a bit further into the mindset of The Joneses.  

Why you should see it 

The Joneses movie makes you think about your desires in a new way. Why do I want that expensive item? Is it because my friend has it, or someone cool is wearing it? Admittedly, when I see a celebrity I admire wearing something, it does make me want one more, so I can feel more like them. Sponsored marketing works, but it’s in your face, whereas this form of marketing is deceptive, making it clever and concerning. It’s rare to see a comedy that makes you think so much about yourself and your place in the modern American consumerist culture. While the movie isn’t perfect, it’s wickedly entertaining, which in my opinion, is more important for a comedy. 

The Joneses is written and directed by Derrick Stacey Borte in a fantastic directorial debut. You can check it out on Amazon Prime Video and Peacock. 

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