Adverts: we hate what they have to say, even though they tell us about products we might use. We especially despise the way they intrude on our lives; trying to watch a show or exploring the city, you will likely be affronted by these distractions, when you just want to enjoy the moment. The Marketers know this and spend considerable time and effort conceiving more subtle methods to sell the products to you. In 2009, a film satirised that by showing what happens when the Platonic ideal of the affluent suburban family is literally for sale, in The Joneses.
Meet the Joneses, they are a model family… literally. They get paid to hock products by showing them off. Pretending to be a typical, albeit affluent American family. They are all actors, unrelated but living together. While they are dysfunctional, they get the job done. Apart from newcomer Steve, who struggles at first but gets the upper hand by applying his middle-aged male experience of suburbia to speak to the plight of his targets. Eventually outpacing Kate, who wants to show the company that she can manage a team on her own. As they continue this charade, their problems manifest in ways that could destroy the community that they ingratiated themselves in. In the rat race of aspiration can anybody keep up with them (even themselves)?
It would be hard to assess the film without breaking down the Joneses themselves. Kate is interesting as the family’s matriarch manager, trying to broker in her “unit”, whilst showing the big wigs she can lead on her own. She has recently hired Steve, who has not been competing with the rest of the family but wants something a little more personal from the relationship with his fake wife/boss. While Jenn, who has an attachment to older men, that might jeopardise the marriage of one of the targets. Along with ‘son’ Mick, who is dating outsider Naomi, but has doubts he is betraying her trust and himself. In short, there is a lot to digest when it comes to this comedic drama. Watching it now provides a different experience than when it was made. It is true that nowadays, this stealth marketing approach (even if it was feasible then) has certainly been superseded by the rise of online influencer culture, that is controversially prevalent today. I, therefore, cannot decide if this film is prophetic or short-sighted because of this.
As a film, it utilises impressive talents from Duchovny, Moore, Head, Cole et al. who make this real drama about this fake family very compelling. Although, for a film about product placement, I did not notice that many real-world brands. Considering one brand is depicted irresponsibly targeting let us just say youthful customers, it would be hard for a willing participant. The only noticeable example of prominent placement is of viral rock group, OK Go, with their music video understatedly playing in a scene, and featuring prominently in the credits. There are also hints of the stealthy world of Multi-level Marketing schemes; the almost pyramid schemes that prey on the gullible. Done in a way as to evoke direct parallels with the techniques of the Joneses.
A satire on consumerism in the debris of the market crash, The Joneses is a peculiar film, possibly foretelling the rise of social media influencers, who would likely put all these out of a job. It offers helpings of comedy, and heady amounts of romantic tension. Underpining this wry drama and making for an intriguing buffet of ideas. If you are in the mood for a subversive comedy romantic drama; The Joneses can sell you that feeling.
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