What promises to be a satire on American consumerism and greed turns
out, instead, to be an examination of personality dysfunction with one small
ray of romance at the end. Now
that’s an odd duck of a feature film.
Demi Moore plays Kate, the seemingly perfectly-together Mom in
suburbia. She’s cute, smart,
funny, ambitious, and seems completely enamored with her husband, Steve (David
Duchovny). Except their
relationship is a sham. She’s
actually employed by a very high-powered marketing firm (expertly represented
by the intimidating Lauren Hutton), and Steve is a newcomer to her “team,”
which also consists of her fake children, Jenn (Amber Heard), and Mick (Ben
Hollingsworth). Other than the
fact that both actors are too old for teenage parts, they also bring their
adult sexuality to the empty household. Jenn
first wants to sleep with Steve, which Kate, even from a separate bedroom,
loudly and flatly forbids. Then
Jenn wants to sleep with a rich neighbor, which Kate can’t really stop, but
it creates other problems, as well. Mick,
for his part, having charmed all the girls at school, finally gets tired of
acting interested and “comes out” at a very awkward time.
This is the kind of distraction they don’t need, because their
marketing ploy is working to perfection.
Everything they wear, the neighbors want to wear.
Everything they drive, the neighbors want to drive.
Everything they do, the neighbors want to do. (Too bad nobody had the
courage to hold up for ridicule not overachieving American suburbia, but
. But then again, it’s a lot
easier making fun of everybody else, isn’t it?)
The whole plastic bubble bursts when their next-door neighbor, having
driven himself into bankruptcy with his pathetic attempts to keep up with the
Joneses, finally implodes, and Steve, suddenly discovering a conscience, feels
bad about being the agent for such insecure self-loathing.
So he simplistically romances Kate, thinking that they could just run
away together and forget the whole thing.
Yes, we are all absolute sheep when it comes to our consumer tastes,
and we all readily admit how pathetically influencable we really are.
And yet, it doesn’t quite ring true that we’d all want to blindly
copycat the new family on the block, just because they’re good-looking, and
seem nice. And, they aren’t
immune themselves to the heartache they so blithely spread around.
So who can we really root for? The
stone-cold manipulators? Their
self-indulgent victims? The
implausible budding romance between the fake spouses?
Yes, the performances are believable (it’s nice to see Demi Moore
given a decent role again), and the premise is mostly plausible (other than
the little detail about all products somehow sponsored simultaneously).
But this is an odd duck of a feature film.
It quacks to its own rhythm.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace