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Selling Out: How to keep up with The Joneses in the modern age 

The Joneses is Derrick Borte's first feature; he's otherwise an advertising man.

The Joneses is Derrick Borte's first feature; he's otherwise an advertising man. The idea for this film originated in the contemporary trend in marketing which sees companies paying young, cool, attractive individuals to take their new product and go out into the world to sell it by "stealth" without admitting to being a salesman while bandying about the latest cell phone at a party. Here, Borte imagines what might happen if an advertising company hired a group of individuals to act as a family and sell clients' products to their wealthy friends and neighbors.

The problem is that Borte's roots are too exposed. It's obvious that he doesn't know what to do with a feature film and would be more comfortable getting his message across within the 30-second slot of a commercial break. The premise is fascinating, but Borte explores it from a disappointingly safe distance, unsure of how to expand a brilliant log line into a living, breathing movie.

Scenes are cut short, character arcs fall, and there's little depth or detail. Borte compensates for a low budget with a manufactured TV show-style glossiness, but the lighting and music interfere with the story's substance. The first few scenes promise a darker, braver movie, but Borte backs down. The tone contrasts with the rest of the film, which plays out lighter and almost soapy.

That all said, The Joneses is thought provoking. As Kate and Steve Jones, Demi Moore and David Duchovny are interesting phony parents to their phony teenage daughter Jenn, played by Amber Heard who was in the great horror/thriller All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, and son Mick, played by Ben Hollingsworth. It, perhaps, would have worked better if the trailer had not let on that the family is only a group of hired salespeople, so that when we see Amber climb naked into the bed with her sleeping "father" it would have more of an impact. As it is, The Joneses doesn't get to have enough fun with its premise before everything falls apart. The romance between Kate and Steve takes precedence too early and makes for too neat of an ending.

Of course, even if we don't have our own Joneses next door, we do have brand-sponsored celebrities like this in which we get to see David Duchovny drive the brand new Audi and Demi Moore go for a run in her Juicy Couture tracksuit. A new piece of technology was even developed in conjunction with the promotion of The Joneses to enable viewers to instantly buy the stuff they see in the clips and trailer. When viewing the online trailer, one can use something called a SmartBar that showcases (and allows one to purchase) many of the items seen on the screen.

That the makers of these products were happy to put their names on a film that presents itself as a criticism, albeit soft-core, of consumer culture only goes to show the extent of their amorality and possibly that of Derrick Borte. This director seems to see this as all good fun and games, leaving the rest of us to ponder the real potential of the idea.

The Joneses


Directed by Derrick Borte

Starring Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard. Rated R


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