Tag Archives: lauren hutton

We interrupt this Musashi series to bring you SS’s maiden review: Keeping up with the Joneses

The Joneses focuses on a foursome whose job is to pose as a family in wealthy suburbia in order to sell, to their neighbors, their picture-perfect luxury lifestyle and the accoutrements it requires. This phony stealth “marketing unit” is led by veteran mom Kate (Demi Moore) and includes rookie dad Steve (David Duchovny), slutty daughter Jenn (Amber Heard), and milquetoast son Mick (Ben Hollingsworth), all of them employed by KC (Lauren Hutton) to push high-end products to the various demographic groups in which they mingle.  They can’t tell anyone what they’re doing, of course. That would defeat the purpose. Instead, they must cultivate “friendships” with the people they’re subtly advertising to. They’re salespeople whose goal is to market themselves, and director Derrick Borte promotes this fantasy with enough electronics-and-dishware fetishism to slyly indict his audience’s own materialist hunger.

In their new ritzy enclave, the Joneses wow the locals and befriend a couple, Larry Symonds  (Gary Cole of Office Space) and Summer (Glenne Headly), who desperately need to keep up with their new neighbors and become integral components of their community.  Summer is a salesperson, too, the old-school kind who hosts parties to sell a line of beauty products. She’s not very good at it, but she’s so focused on it that she has no time for Larry, who adores her. Larry, following Steve’s lead — Steve and Kate seem so happy! — buys baubles for his wife.  But take a closer look at the situation and you’ll start to see something ominous lurking just beneath the surface. It’s only when the Joneses are confronted with the unexpected suicide of Larry that they finally discover who they really are beneath the glossy veneer of consumerism.

Yet lonely and unhappy in their downtime, the false family is so obviously and tamely positioned as embodiments of American consumerism-run-amok and the sham joy derived from purchased things that the film quickly telegraphs the sermon to come. Come it does, via the type of predictable tragedy one can see a country club away, though not before Steve subtly convinces men to buy fancy golf gear, Kate covertly hawks frozen dinners and beauty care products, Jenn and Mick advertise perfume and videogames to the local teens, and an equally foreseeable subplot plays out involving Steve’s desire for a real nuclear family and Kate’s developing feelings for her fake hubby.

As a modern satire of the nouveau riche, The Joneses offers a reflective look at the status seeking upper middle class: their shallow pursuit of the latest gadgets, designer clothes and other goods and shows that although on the surface they may seem successful, they are no better off than the middle or lower class. They are living hand to mouth on a different scale. The only difference is the number zero on the bills going out every month. They fall prey to the same flaws of vanity narcissism and they have the same insecurities about who they are in life, like their neighbor who had all the trappings of wealth on the surface but in the end the self-destruction drove him to suicide.  They are all trying to display their lack of real wealth but expensive cars and clothes.  When it comes down to it, your real wealth is not what is in your bank account. Feeling wealthy is the cause of your demise, because no matter what you buy, the bill is in the mail and at some point it will come home to roost.  Trying to keep up with the Joneses, you can charge $30,000 worth of clothes, but you will still never keep up with them.  It says something about society: we have these multinational companies telling us “we designed jeans which cost $200 per pair” even though a pair of Levis cost $50 and the $200 pair does not use four times as much denim. They create an illusion and when the consumer buys it becomes real. It is all about status — you can get as much status as your wallet can afford or at least fake it and hope you make it.

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Posted by on April 17, 2011 in Movie Reviews


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Here is our third and final installment of our tribute to Burt Reynolds: “Malone” (1987).

When looking at Malone I think it is important to put the film in the context of Reynolds’ career, by the mid ’80s his heyday was unfortunately over, and he ceased to be the superstar he once was.  Box office duds like Stick (1985) and Rent-a-Cop (1988), along with unfounded rumors that he had contracted AIDS (he was actually suffering from a joint ailment), were career cyanide.  The TV series Evening Shade provided Reynolds a brief pick-up and an Emmy, but when his marriage to Loni Anderson dissolved into an ugly, endless tabloid drama, Reynolds’ career (and product endorsement contracts) nosedived.  He made Malone right in the eye of this storm.

Now let’s get one with it.  Malone is a 1987 movie, starring Burt Reynolds and written by Christopher Frank and based on a novel by William P. Wingate.  In addition to Reynolds, Cliff Robertson and Lauren Hutton also play major roles.

Malone (Burt Reynolds) has been a “wet” operative for the CIA for many years, serving his country by performing assassinations.  He was tired of his job and wanted to get out of “the company” (as it is typically called) and live a “normal” life.  He is driving through the Pacific Northwest, looking for a place to settle down, when his much-cherished classic Mustang has transmission problems and breaks down outside the town of Comstock.  Reynolds manages to get to a small gas station and is treated like family by a Vietnam veteran, who owns the station, and his daughter.  They are suffering from the nefarious activities of the local big cheese (Cliff Robertson) to take over all the land in the city and turn it into to some quasi- Posse Comitatus haven for “patriots.”  By beating or killing some of the town’s hillbillies (in self-defense), Malone soon runs afoul of the town sheriff who is basically an employee of the developer.  By the end of the film, though, he eventually wins the Sherriff’s respect.  Starting with the most inept of the sinister henchmen, Malone is gradually drawn into the town drama until he achieves his final pyrotechnic victory and moves on—like Minfune’s Yojimbo or Eastwood’s man with no name.

Meanwhile, the CIA is none too pleased to hear of Malone’s intended retirement and sends a succession of hit-men after him to ensure that he divulges none of their dirty secrets.  Malone destroys the first two killers at some cost to his own well-being.  The next assassin turns out to be a woman who is susceptible to his charms.

As we know from Sharkey’s Machine, Reynolds is actually not a bad actor when he’s not trying to be “a good old boy” all the time.  Cliff Robertson goes eerily over the top while Lauren Hutton is beautiful, brave and loyal (and I would expect nothing less).  So what do we do with the formulaic movie clearly made by Reynolds because he needed the money?  There is nothing evidently wrong with the film—it doesn’t look low budget, everyone seems to play their parts and get their lines straight.  My advice to you is to enjoy it for what it is a damn good bad movie.


Posted by on March 25, 2011 in Movie Reviews


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