“The Joneses”
 
            What promises to be a satire on American consumerism and greed turns out, instead, to be an examination of personality dysfunction with one small ray of romance at the end.   Now that’s an odd duck of a feature film.
            Demi Moore plays Kate, the seemingly perfectly-together Mom in suburbia.  She’s cute, smart, funny, ambitious, and seems completely enamored with her husband, Steve (David Duchovny).  Except their relationship is a sham.  She’s actually employed by a very high-powered marketing firm (expertly represented by the intimidating Lauren Hutton), and Steve is a newcomer to her “team,” which also consists of her fake children, Jenn (Amber Heard), and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth).  Other than the fact that both actors are too old for teenage parts, they also bring their adult sexuality to the empty household.  Jenn first wants to sleep with Steve, which Kate, even from a separate bedroom, loudly and flatly forbids.  Then Jenn wants to sleep with a rich neighbor, which Kate can’t really stop, but it creates other problems, as well.  Mick, for his part, having charmed all the girls at school, finally gets tired of acting interested and “comes out” at a very awkward time.  This is the kind of distraction they don’t need, because their marketing ploy is working to perfection.  Everything they wear, the neighbors want to wear.  Everything they drive, the neighbors want to drive.  Everything they do, the neighbors want to do. (Too bad nobody had the courage to hold up for ridicule not overachieving American suburbia, but overweening, self-promoting Hollywood .  But then again, it’s a lot easier making fun of everybody else, isn’t it?)
            The whole plastic bubble bursts when their next-door neighbor, having driven himself into bankruptcy with his pathetic attempts to keep up with the Joneses, finally implodes, and Steve, suddenly discovering a conscience, feels bad about being the agent for such insecure self-loathing.   So he simplistically romances Kate, thinking that they could just run away together and forget the whole thing.  Right.
            Yes, we are all absolute sheep when it comes to our consumer tastes, and we all readily admit how pathetically influencable we really are.  And yet, it doesn’t quite ring true that we’d all want to blindly copycat the new family on the block, just because they’re good-looking, and seem nice.  And, they aren’t immune themselves to the heartache they so blithely spread around.  So who can we really root for?  The stone-cold manipulators?  Their self-indulgent victims?  The implausible budding romance between the fake spouses?
            Yes, the performances are believable (it’s nice to see Demi Moore given a decent role again), and the premise is mostly plausible (other than the little detail about all products somehow sponsored simultaneously).  But this is an odd duck of a feature film.  It quacks to its own rhythm.
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas