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The Joneses (Roadside Attractions, R)

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The Joneses is a remarkably polished first feature from Borte and although the film falters at the end most of it works very well indeed and offers an intelligent alternative to the many brain dead summer movies which will soon be flooding our movie screens.

Meet the Joneses. They’re the perfect couple who just moved in next door—two parents, two kids—and they’re all gorgeous, smart, personable, and loaded up with the coolest stuff that money can buy. Their home is a symphony of upscale chic and the whole family is just so nice: the kids display none of the brattiness you associate with the teenage years and the parents remain madly in love with each other.

There’s something peculiar about the Joneses, however. Why are they so interested in the demographics of their new neighborhood and what did the father mean when he said “we’re going to do some damage in this town”? And what is the daughter doing climbing into bed with Dad? Obviously something is up, but what?

Full appreciation of The Joneses, which manages to be both a romantic comedy and a social satire, requires that you not know what is really going on with these paragons of suburbia until director Derrick Borte (who also wrote the script, adapted from a story by Randy T. Dinzler) chooses to reveal it to you. Although this happens early in the film I’m still not going to give it away, which makes my job as a reviewer rather complicated. I will say this much, however: The Joneses is a remarkably polished first feature from Borte and although the film falters at the end most of it works very well indeed and offers an intelligent alternative to the many brain dead summer movies which will soon be flooding our movie screens.

And I can introduce you to the Joneses and a few of their neighbors. Steve Jones (David Duchovny) puts a lot of time in at the golf course, effortlessly charming everyone he meets, while his wife Kate (Demi Moore) concentrates on being the perfect homemaker and maintaining the appearance appropriate to a trophy wife. Their kids Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) attend the local high school where they have no problem making friends immediately. In fact, you might think this was an ex-military family or something, so easily do they all to adapt to their new surroundings.

Their neighbors Larry (Gary Cole) and Summer (Glenne Headly) wish they were the Joneses, rich and successful without seeming to try at all. Instead Summer has pinned her hopes on marketing an upscale version of Avon (in a satire within a satire on self-empowerment schemes) while Larry confides in his new buddy Steve that all is not well in the old bedroom. Lauren Hutton is effective in her role (although I can’t tell you what that is) and Chris Williams is charming as an upscale hairdresser who knows his clientele very well indeed.

The Joneses was filmed in Georgia and Washington State but I couldn’t tell you which scenes were shot in which location, a tribute to the skill the creative team including cinematographer Yaron Orbach, production designer Kristi Zea, and art director Paul Kelly. You could probably find similar suburban developments, and similar people living in them, in most if not all U.S. states and that jibes perfectly with the spirit of this film. | Sarah Boslaugh

 

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