Ah, those irritable Joneses. we always find ourselves trying to keep up with their fancy cars, their whiz-bang gadgets, their gaudy baubles.
Turns out they’ve been cheating all along. Steve Jones (David Duchovny), his wife, Kate Jones (Demi Moore), and their children may be the next-door neighbors, but they’re also bought and paid for by all the companies whose products they’re using. It’s Life™, the ultimate advertisement.
Some may scream “spoiler” and prepare to hurl things at me because I “ruined the movie” by telling you this, but that’s not really fair. After all, if I left it out of my description of the plot, what could I say? “It’s a bunch of people who live in a town, and, uh.…” as a movie, The Joneses won’t exactly blow your mind — the acting, writing, cinematography and typical cinematic forms are bland, if serviceable. But as a thought experiment, it’s a fantastic exploration of the loss of delineation between advertising and entertainment. That’s why it doesn’t matter if you know the movie’s twist.
At first glance, The Joneses seems like any other — which only serves to underscore the insidious nature of its message. We’re used to seeing name-brand products in movies: Spock uses a Nokia phone in Star Trek, Will Smith clops around in Chucks (“vintage 2004”) in I, Robot, and E.T. scarfs down his Reese’s Pieces in E.T. and who can forget the volleyball’s star turn as “Wilson” in Cast Away?
Perhaps that’s the best part.
The Joneses seems like a normal movie only because we see so much advertising in our everyday lives. Hell, they wouldn’t be able to call it The Joneses if our own neighbors didn’t keep buying up iPods, iPads and other iCurios like they’re Picassos at a yard sale.
Watching this DVD is like watching ourselves in a mirror. Sure, it’s a damned expensive mirror (there must be some irony in watching a film about consumerism on a 32-inch flat-screen), but to go too long without taking a good look at ourselves is to invite pervasive advertising — which we all claim to hate — with open arms.