| This dark satire takes aim at the societal pressures of acquiring stuff to measure our self-worth. The premise is all about “keeping up with the Joneses.” The movie opens with David Duchovny (“The X Files”) saying “We are going to do some damage in this town.” This is a tip-off to the secret agenda of this seemingly perfect family moving into a gated community of an affluent suburb lined with McMansions, perfectly manicured lawns, expensive automobiles and all the other accoutrements of an upper middle class lifestyle.
This “pretend” family consists of handsome husband Steve (Duchovny), glamorous wife Kate (Demi Moore) and attractive teenage son Mick and daughter Jenn (Ben Hollingsworth from TV’s “The Beautiful Life” and Amber Heard from “Zombieland”).
Their goal is to create a “ripple effect” while making friends and influencing people’s marketing choices at school, the beauty salon and the country club.
Steve, a former car salesman and golf pro, has a laidback attitude and needs to develop a killer instinct. Kate is emotionally detached and the trendsetter of the group. She dresses her toned figure to the nines in designer labels and ostentatious jewelry. Her perfume brings out the savage beast in the male species. Steve is determined to share the master bedroom with the beguiling Kate.
Mick is confused about his sexual identity and wants desperately to come out of the closet. Jenn is a nymphomaniac who prefers experienced older men. These sexually driven subplots take away from the main storyline and the outward façade of this dreamy Stepford-type family unit that appears to have everything.
Things get messy as problems catch up with them and they start acting like a real caring family.
The gullible next-door neighbors, Larry and Summer (Gary Cole and Glenne Headly), pay the biggest price for this cleverly disguised deception. The old adage that money (and all the luxuries you can acquire with it) can’t buy happiness rings true in this slickly packaged production.
Effective acting by a good-looking cast, exquisite interior designs, appealing product placement, luscious scenery and crystal clear cinematography are the strengths of this production. The movie is perfectly timed at 96 minutes to keep audiences engaged, but the story runs out of steam in the last act.
Writer-director Derrick Borte makes an impressive film debut that takes advantage of a familiarity with marketing consumer goods and seductive advertising. This former advertising pitch man began his career as a graphic artist and a director of commercials.
This reality horror show where “whoever dies with the most toys wins” is now playing exclusively at AMC Studio 30 and Cinemark Palace on the Plaza.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"