The Joneses

As I said, this film is not a comedy, it is a true to life vision of the capitalist society we live in today and it is both horrifying and heart-breaking.

In 2009 a film based on the American Dream™ was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. This film, written by Derrick Borte and starring Demi Moore (Indecent Proposal), David Duchovny (X-files), Ben Hollingsworth (Suits) and Amber Heard (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane); advertised as a comedy-drama, is a solid representation of modern life. Here I will argue, this film is not a comedy.

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We’re going to be getting into some spoiler areas so if you haven’t seen it, and you don’t want to know the details, stop reading now. 

As I said, this film is not a comedy, it is a true to life vision of the capitalist society we live in today and it is both horrifying and heart-breaking. The film starts off with this all too perfect family moving into a new house filled with beautiful and expensive new things. From the very beginning it is clear something isn’t normal about this family, but unlike the comedy equivalent film ‘We’re the Millers’, where not only is the reason explained, but it is used for comedy value, when you find out the reason this family is a little bit weird (they aren’t really a family), it’s not really funny. What they are, in actual fact, are employees of an unknown corporation, specially placed into a genuine community, with fake names, fake lives and basically fake everything else, to sell these people stuff. Stuff they don’t want, stuff they don’t need, stuff they only buy because, as the film so wittingly refers to in the title… They want to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

Do you see something very familiar about this? Not specifically that people move into your neighborhood with fake lives and names to sell you things – although, who knows, maybe Mrs. Morris down the road is secretly working for a huge corporation, trying to sell you cat food or something. The familiarity is that every where, every single day we are bombarded with things. We are constantly being sold products, and here’s the thing, and it’s a shocking revelation to those die-hard consumerists out there, but we don’t really need any of this crap.

Back to the film. So through-out the film, David Duchovny’s character Steve, struggles with the life. First he struggles to make huge sales, at 3% increase when the rest of the fake family are somewhere between 14-20%. He finally gets his sales up but begins to struggle differentiating between this fake life, and real feelings he has towards his fake wife and his boss, Kate (Demi Moore). All the while his fake son, Mick is literally in the closet, as he is expected to pretend to be a ‘perfect’, straight, high school kid that’s just cool enough to push products to every teenager in the area. Let’s not forget his fake daughter Jenn, who is a secret nympho that likes sleeping with older men, especially married ones. With all this going on, they are still presenting this ‘perfect, all-American’ family image, and the worst part is it works. The community around them slowly begin buying products to keep up with this seemingly faultless family.

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While the family assimilates, becoming friends with everyone in the community to really solidify that ‘flawless family’ feeling, in a brilliantly cunning business scheme, we are introduced to the near by neighbors, Larry and Summer Symonds, both are endearingly genuine people. Summer’s passion in life is becoming a strong sales woman for a beauty line and Larry’s passion in life is making his wife happy, and you can tell he truly loves her, regardless of the issues they have as a couple. The hardest part about this film, is seeing Summer and Larry fall for the Joneses act, resulting in a terrible debt and eventually, Larry’s suicide. This scene had me in tears.

The reason that particular scene, and subsequently the break-down of the fake family, as Steve realises that this lifestyle is the cause of this heartbreaking event, hits me so hard, is that it really happens. Articles such as this, this and this, are reported regularly in the media, but it appears as if we all know what’s going on, but no one can or wants to do anything about it. I mean, let’s face it, having the biggest TV is far more important right? (Wrong).

People out there are so drawn into this lifestyle. Needing the newest things, the most expensive clothes, the techy-est tech, they find themselves in overwhelming debt and do take their own lives as a result of the pressure. But what can we do? In this day and age, it is incredibly difficult not to be drawn into this idea, this lifestyle that is so conveniently and constantly presented to us. Presented via television, through movies, through music and lets not forget the most prevalent path, through social media. I will admit that even I am drawn in sometimes. I will sit there wanting a new pair of £50 leggings, while I’ve got 40 pairs already (but they’re different you see), or I’ll occasionally cave in to peer pressure, like I did when I took out the contract on my iPhone 6+ because all my friends and my partner had one while I had a perfectly working, but not as flashy, second-hand iPhone 4.

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The fact is, that even when you realise how terrible this overtly capitalist society we live in is; when you realise the things you are being sold day in day out, the time you spend working a thankless job for minimal pay, to buy things you think will make you complete (but they never really do), isn’t a great way to live. You still find yourself falling for it, because in this life, right here, right now, what else can you do? If you decide not to work anymore, if you decide you don’t agree with money, consumerism and capitalism; if you have a personal epiphany, that in the grand scheme of life, literally none of these things matter, it isn’t going to change anything.

That’s what Steve learned at the end of the film. That it was all garbage, that had real-world, negative impacts on the lives of others, but there was not a damn-thing he could do to change it. That is why, this film, is not a comedy, but it is a film you should watch.

The Joneses is currently on Netflix in the UK if anyone is interested.

 

Gotham: Follow the White Rabbit

Well, let’s dive straight in at the deep end! For those of you reading this who watch Gotham, hopefully you’re up to date with season 3.

So far; we’ve been introduced to The Court of Owls and Bruce Wayne’s mysterious double, Hugo Strange has been kidnapped by Fish Mooney, Lee is back in town and marrying Falcone’s son, Penguin is mayor and has had Ed Nygma released from Arkham, the Police Captain has been poisoned with a blood virus and we’ve met the Mad Hatter… Oh yes, and James Gordon has been seeing Valerie Vale, who I am to understand is Vicky Vale’s aunt.

 

In this particular episode, the Mad Hatter (Jervis Tetch) is still terrorising Jim Gordon while blaming him for the death of his sister Alice. Tetch decides to play a game of choice with Gordon, one that he can’t win. He plays on Jim’s heroic need to save everyone and makes him chose between the lives of one person and another – with no way of saving gotham-10-20-image_den-of-geekboth. A classic trope in the comic-book world, and a particularly good choice for manipulating the emotions of the viewer as well as forcing Jim to face truths about his character. In the meantime with see Police Captain Nathaniel Barnes dealing with the blood virus he caught from contact with Alice’s blood, so far he’s got a pretty good handle on things but is already displaying more prominent anger and strength. There’s no doubt that there’s going to be trouble coming there down the line and it leaves us wondering, if the worst happens, is that what triggers Jim to go back and work for Gotham PD?

Meanwhile, for anyone who hasn’t been payingotham-306-follow-the-white-rabbit-9g attention for the last few seasons; the homoerotic undertones in Penguin and Nygma’s relationship just came bubbling to the surface and Penguin realises that he has stronger feelings for dear old Ed, than ‘just friends’. Penguin plays the role almost like a school boy crush, and he is understandably trepidatious to show his deeper feelings for Ed; because after all, they are both ruthless criminals. Now while I can see Ed’s reciprocation to some feelings, as they both have had back and forth ‘I love you bro’ moments since they became friends. However, the timing is off, and this Kristen Kringle look alike with a penchant for riddles appears out of nowhere to lead Ed off into the sun set; effectively preluding to the ruin of the relationship between him and Penguin. In the grand scheme, unless the show runners intend to change the future of the Batverse, I think it’s safe to say there has to be something to break up this (b)romance between the two, as in the comics, Nygma and Penguin definitely aren’t dating and aren’t really even friends. Quite disappointing as the on screen character development between the two has been exceptional and I would hate to see them part.

Back to Jim Gordon, who so far has saved a child but let a newly married couple die. Gordon moves to find Tetch, who has stolen both Lee and Valerie, in an attempt to break Jim’s heart, as Tetch’s has been broken at the loss of his dear sister. While Jim is trying to figure out the clues, there is a lovely bonding moment between the women as they pick locks and chat. Valerie is an unrelenting journalist to the end and in this time of peril she still insists on attempting to interview Lee about the GCPD testing on Alice Tetch’s blood. Lee, quips that her unwavering dedication to the job makes her a perfect match for Jim Gordon. This is always bad news, deeper connections between viewer and character relationships, as well as character and character relationships, are more often than not a sign that one or more of the characters involved are going to die, or at the very least end up seriously injured. Gordon figures out that the hypnotised albino man ,dressed in formal wear, that strangely resembles the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (go figure), is the person he needs to find Lee and Valerie.

After a brief spat with Lee’s new fiance Mario Falcone, the pair work together and attempt a rescue of the two lovely ladies. Tetch however see’s it coming and foils the plan before it really gets started. In the end Jim has to sit down at the Mad Hatter’s tea party; Tetch in front of him, Lee on his right and Valerie on his left, all while trying to remain calm and not give Tetch even sign that these mind games have had an effect on him. Jervis, gun blazing, insists that Gordon tell him which of the ladies is the one he loves (or loves the most) and as usual, Jim tries to sacrifice himself, shouting ‘take me, I’m the one you want’ and plays the part of the hero perfectly. Tetch is almost fooled, but snaps out of it at the last minute and changes his demand. Now Gordon must pick which woman will die or both will be shot. After a brief thinking period Gordon picks Lee to die and Tetch, believing that Valerie is the one Gordon loves, shoots Miss Vale in the stomach.

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Now there’s been a lot of discussion about this scene since it aired. Most people seem to believe that Gordon appears to love Valerie Vale and that things are now going to be quite awkward between Lee and Jim since he chose her to die. I however disagree. I believe that Jim, knowing that Tetch was determined to shoot the one he loved the most, chose Lee to die because he knew Jervis would shoot the opposite love interest. In short, Jim Gordon chose Lee to save her, having figured out that Jervis Tetch would shoot the woman he didn’t chose to die, believing that that woman was the one Jim loved most.

Now I don’t know where the show runners are taking the relationship with Jim and Lee or Jim and Valerie but I do know that Jim Gordon loves Lee Thompkins and is most definitely not petty enough to let her die just because he’s heartbroken she’s moved on. The only thing left to do it wait to see the fallout in next week’s episode.