Word of mouth, as we all know, is the best form of marketing. It doesn't matter how good your product is, or how many millions you spend on advertising, if people tell their friends that it's crap, you'll see your sales plummet. Conversely, if you've got a product that people love and which gets them talking, you can save a fortune on advertising campaigns and let word of mouth take over.
And so to the Joneses of the title. The Joneses are the perfect nuclear American family. Everyone wants to keep up with them. They're beautiful, well liked, extremely well off, and they always seem to have the best and newest of everything – whether it be cars, gadgets, clothes, furniture or food. We first meet the Joneses as they arrive at their new home in a beautiful affluent suburb (the movers beat them there and have the entire house already set up for them). But all is not as it seems. And it's impossible to discuss this film any further without revealing a major plot point ... so if you're wary of spoilers, stop reading now.
The Joneses are not, in fact, a real family. They are salespeople, employed by a stealth marketing company to make their friends and neighbours desire everything they have. Their job is simply to live a desirous lifestyle ... to throw the best parties, wear the best clothes and be seen with the newest and best of everything – be it the latest line in frozen foods, or golf clubs, or sunglasses, or flatscreen TVs. To the outsde world, they are the perfect family, but behind the scenes, all is not as happy as it seems. Head of the team is Kate (Moore, in her best performance in recent memory), a tough-minded, goal-obsessed business woman; dad Steve (the always-reliable Duchovny), a failed golf pro turned car salesman, who is new to this "reality marketing" game; Jenn (the gorgeous Heard), who is a slut with a thing for older men (at one point she even tries to seduce her "dad"); and Mick (big-screen newcomer Hollingsworth), an in-the-closet homosexual. They have monthly targets to meet, but things start to go wrong when Steve's figures start to outpace his "wife's" ...
We're all aware of product placement in films and TV shows – hell, I'm sure that every product seen in this film was placed there, and that money changed hands – but The Joneses takes it it to the next, scarily probable level. Friends and neighbours of the Joneses – particularly couple-next-door Larry and Summer (Cole and Headly in outstanding performances) – are all more than happy to buy the sales pitch, clueless as to what is really going on. For the first half, The Joneses is a darkly clever satire about our consumer society, and how far people will go to attain what they perceive to be the perfect lifestyle. It's a cynical comic drama that, for the most part, lives up to its initial promise. It asks the hard questions about our consumerist society, but fails to deliver any answers. And it comes a bit of a cropper in the final act, when it gets a little too bogged down in preachiness. It could – and should – have been much, much blacker than it is, but instead opts for the usual Hollywood happy ending. Which for me makes it a bit of a sellout.