The Joneses -- Film Review

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TORONTO -- A self-satisfied satire about a quartet of salespeople posing as your average affluent American family, "The Joneses" certainly had a workable premise at its disposal.

But in the hands of first-time writer-director Derrick Borte, what could have been a biting black comedy taking product placement to the logical extreme instead is so obviously predictable that even a savvy cast led by David Duchovny and Demi Moore can't sell it.

Emerging from the Toronto International Film Festival without a domestic-distribution deal, the film can't help but draw comparisons to "Confessions of a Shopaholic," another ill-timed comedy about raging consumerism that few found funny given the current economic climate.

From the get-go, there's something a little too perfect about the Joneses, the attractive, confident brood that recently moved into their fabulously furnished home in a decidedly upscale suburb.

As it turns out, Steve (Duchovny), Kate (Moore) and their teenaged kids, Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth), aren't a real family at all but a grouping of slick shills assembled by boss Lauren Hutton with the intention of getting the neighbors to lust after their cool stuff.

They would include the highly acquisitive Larry (Gary Cole) and his wife (Glenne Headly), who turn out to be seriously overextended as it is, and you don't need a sales manual to see where things are headed.

Borte, who comes from the world of commercials, signals every intended plot twist and turn so far in advance, it's way too easy to keep up with "The Joneses." One expects a subliminal message of some sort, but it's all on the surface.

It still works up to a point, largely because of the persuasive qualities of its cast, notably Duchovny's raffish charm and Moore's spirited hustle, which in tandem generates a palpable chemistry.

Or maybe that's just what they wanted you to think.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production: Echo Lake Prods.
Cast: David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Gary Cole, Glenne Headly, Lauren Hutton
Director-screenwriter: Derrick Borte
Producers: Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Derrick Borte, Kristi Zea.
Executive producers: Sheetal Talwar, Tom Luse, Paul Young, Peter Principato
Director of photography: Yaron Orbach
Production designer: Kristi Zea
Music: Nick Urata
Costume designer: Renee Kalfus
Editor: Janice Hampton
Sales: FilmNation Entertainment/ICM
No rating, 93 minutes
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