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The Joneses - Reviews

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    TIFF 09 Review: The Joneses
    posted by Andrew James. Chief Imagination Officer

    Director: Derrick Borte
    Writer: Derrick Borte
    Producers: Derrick Borte, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Kristi Zea
    Starring: Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard, Gary Cole, Lauren Hutton
    MPAA Rating: no info
    Running time: 93 min.

    I‘ve said it many times in the past and I’ll say it again, going in blind to a film will often bring about the most pleasant of surprise experiences. Other than the title and picture below, nothing was known (by me) about the plot or characters. Would this be a comedy or a light hearted drama? Since David Duchovny sold me by face alone, I have to admit being a little bit skeptical whilst finding my seat at the gorgeous and historic Elgin theater. But as mentioned, skepticism often leads to great surprises. So is the case with The Joneses; which keeps the audience guessing and the pace rolling right along to give us a wonderful, satirical and twisted ride down rich, suburbia lane.

    After thirty minutes into the film I thought to myself how difficult of a review this would be to put to paper. It’s nearly impossible to mention anything without giving away the surprises and the story turns. In an effort to keep you the reader in the dark, I’ll simply say that the film takes a very obvious look at the dark side of materialism. David Duchovny and Demi Moore play Steve and Kate Jones just moving their very well-off family into a new neighborhood. They are instantly made to feel welcome by the new neighbors and not only find making friends quite easy, but quickly become the toast of the town. So goes it for their teen daughter and son – instantly popular at school with their good looks and charming personalities. But almost from the get-go we can feel something just isn’t quite right. Small hints evolve into major tip offs as to what is really afoot with the new family in the new neighborhood.

    Because of the tiny little plot clues that slowly get bigger and bigger, the audience simply has more and more questions left unanswered. We’re never sure what’s in store next for any one of the given characters and we just can’t wait to see which new rabbit hole each revelation will bring us down. The string of revelations and plot devices also seem to up the ante quite a bit with each occurrence. But the more we guess what could possibly be next, the further the plot spirals downward (and more importantly outward) and walks a carefully crafted line that comes dangerously close to spinning out of control.

    As the plot seems to grow more and more chaotic, so does the directing technique. Steady cam shots slowly give way to more and more hand held shots that give the audience a sense of almost drunkeness to the situation.

    Besides the plot guessing and anticipation, the mood of the film is equally as unsteady. As things seem to be at their worst or sloppiest, along comes Duchovny with spot on timing to give his very particular brand of dry, sarcastic humor that only he can give to a situation to lighten the mood. The film is fairly serious for the most part, but it knows just the right time to give us a laugh as to not darken the mood too much. It even seems that at some key moments there may even be some ad-libbing going on between Duchovny and Moore. I’m sure both are quite adept at the skill (particularly the former) and the slight Altman-like dialogue moments feel a bit unpolished and unscripted – which is certainly a good thing and delightful to take in.

    It’s interesting to watch how the (fairly innocent) actions of the few, directly and indirectly affect other folks. These actions can sometimes have positive affects, but often times (as in the case of The Joneses) can adversely affect good folks; sometimes bringing about devastating consequences. Whether the intent is there or not, the “ripple effect” that gets bigger and bigger throughout the course of the film is quite devastating to those within range of the epicenter. And though potentially painful, The Joneses is crafted well enough that it is devilishly delightful to watch take place.

    The one major disappointment for me was the final act. Not only could it have ended perfectly at one point about five minutes earlier (instead choosing to tack on a little more audience friendly close), but it also has a two minute speech that spoon feeds us the moral of the entire story. Which as I mentioned in the opening paragraph is beyond obvious. I mean forget metaphor; this film spells out its message pretty clearly early on. But when it is shoved down our throats so heavy handedly, though I felt a little offended, I managed to stifle my groan simply out of respect for cast and crew sitting three rows behind me.

    Still, despite the hand holding in the final fifteen minutes or so, the rest of the film was full of laughs, kept the pace up and managed to keep me guessing for nearly the duration and constantly had me wanting more and wondering what that “more” could possibly be.
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    I love David and Gillian as actors and people. <3
    17. September 2009 23:23:46 CEST