Why do we want what we want? I don’t mean world peace or for our school’s team to win the NCAA championship, but why do we want a particular brand of shoe or phone or perfume? Is it because we think we will be able to appropriate some of the glamor of the celebrities who endorse them or the happiness of the people in commercials who seem to be having so much fun? And how can companies sell products to consumers who skip the ads on television and use pop-up blockers online?
This provocative new film takes current marketing trends and tweaks them just slightly for a sharp, witty, and revealing take that shows us, among other things, that we never really leave middle school when it comes to wanting to be just like the cool kids.
A new family moves into a wealthy neighborhood. They are attractive, charming, and very friendly. They love to entertain and they are always helpful in suggesting products to help you feel better, smarter, and more successful. “What are friends for?” they smile when thanked.
They seem to have it all — and by that I mean every high-end, desirable, utterly enticing gadget, fashion, and accessory you might see in a luxury magazine or on a red carpet or in the SkyMall catalogue. Their name is Jones, as in keeping up with — and as in Jonesing for all of their goodies in an attempt to achieve their effortless glamor.
They’re not a family. They are “stealth marketers,” placed in wealthy neighborhoods to push products. Kate (Demi Moore) is in charge. She has been “Mrs. Jones” with six different “husbands” in different neighborhoods. The new “Mr. Jones” this go-round (David Duchovny) is a former golf pro and car salesman named Steve. Kate teaches him the power of ripple effects — you sell more by influencing the local influencers like the most popular hairdresser in town and the guy who works in the pro shop at the country club. Meanwhile, the fake Jones kids are in high school, pushing lipstick and a rum drink in a sack. “You can’t just sell things; you’re here to sell a lifestyle, an attitude,” their supervisor (60’s supermodel Lauren Hutton) crisply reminds them. “If people want you, they’ll want what you’ve got.”
All goes well at first, the smooth operation contrasting with their neighbor’s clumsy efforts to sell her Mary Kay-style cosmetics. Steve reassures himself that he’s only “making a match between great products and the people that want them.” But then things go very badly, with tragic consequences.
Duchovny and Moore are just right, both deploying and mocking their movie star glamor. In the past, both stars have traded on a talent for blankness (yes, that is a talent), allowing us to project our own feelings onto them. Here, both are a bit more vulnerable and accessible. The exceptional supporting cast includes Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth, as their fake children and Chris Williams as the hairdresser. And watch for the movie’s own stealth marketing through its product placements — almost all of the items used by the Joneses are real. If you leave the theater thinking you really should pick up one of those phones with real-time video or a Japanese toilet, ask yourself why.
CONTEST ALERT: I have three DVDs to give away to the first three people who send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Jones” in the subject line. Don’t forget to include your address! Good luck, and thanks very much to Fox for providing the DVDs.