"The Joneses" Sells Well at First, but the Dark Turn Fails

For a while, at least, a pitch-black (and therefore pitch-perfect) tale of our times: Four business partners masquerading as a happy family move into seven-figure suburbia and sell their friends and neighbors — which is to say, contacts and customers — on their early-adopter, newer-than-brand-new layaway lifestyle. David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard, and Ben Hollingsworth are the client-sponsored grifters; they bait their prey with the latest and greatest gadgets and flash-frozen sushi rolls fresh off the assembly line. But, sadly, the audience is conned most of all. What plays hard and dark for the film's first half goes squishy and blindingly bright as calamity and then outright tragedy lead to the saw-it-coming resolution writer/director Derrick Borte thinks is more sincere than it actually plays. Duchovny is alternately (and suitably) confident and befuddled as the ex-car salesman newly hired to play "Dad." Moore, as boss of the crew, out to make numbers and not friends, is as icy as the Pomtinis she's pushing on commission. And the "kids," one closeted gay and one slutty, aren't dopes. But for whatever reason, the movie goes soft: Business turns to pleasure turns to hurt, and the moral to the story becomes the story. Shrug. Still, there's Gary Cole as the next-door neighbor who buys the sales pitch he can't afford. That's recommendation enough.

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