Saturday, September 11, 2010

Selling The American Dream

It’s difficult to discuss the debut feature by 41-year-old Derrick Borte without getting into the plot twist that drives it. Surprisingly, several reviewers revealed the twist (which occurs early in the film) during THE JONESES’ brief theatrical release.

The satire works just as well if you know the twist in advance (or if you guess it), I’m happy to say, thanks to Borte’s wicked scripting and his game cast. Steve (David Duchovny) and Kate Jones (Demi Moore) and teens Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) and Jen (Amber Heard) sure seem like the perfect American upper-middle-class family with the house and the looks and the golf clubs and the mani-pedis, but it won’t take you long to guess there’s also something a little wonky about them.

THE JONESES is a smart comedy that takes shots at consumerism and the insidiousness of contemporary marketing that only falters when it falls to mush and tries to make its leading characters likable. Everyone knows from THE X-FILES and THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (and CALIFORNICATION? Dunno, never seen it) that Duchovny possesses a wry sense of humor, but Moore, a performer I’ve never cottoned to, is a surprisingly good match for him, both physically and dramatically. Lending real heart are the always awesome Gary Cole and Glenne Headly as the Joneses’ not-so-upscale neighbors whose attempts to keep up make them tragic figures.

I’m not wild about the ending or the late-in-the-game wussification of its hard-selling characters, but the premise and cast are solid, and when Borte is brave enough to stick the knife into the material, THE JONESES works quite well.

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