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A Family Affair: 'A Family Affair' Is Just Another Example Of The ...

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Published Time: 28.06.2024 - 10:02:00 Modified Time: 28.06.2024 - 10:02:00

However, in execution, “A Family Affair” misses the mark and often doesn’t feel like a rom-com at all. Is the movie supposed to be a rom-com with emotional depth or a parody of one? It doesn’t know. This problem is most evident in the stark dichotomy between the characters’ tropey personas and their sincere relationships. A Family Affair


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Nicole Kidman as Brooke Harwood and Zac Efron as Chris Cole in "A Family Affair."

“No great tryst ever started with someone being rational,” says the always-wise Kathy Bates as grandmother Leila Ford in Netflix’s newest rom-com, “A Family Affair.” One could argue that the same truism also applies to romantic comedies, especially the great ones.

Like all movies, rom-coms ask us to suspend our disbelief, to settle into our couch and let ourselves believe in anonymously heartfelt email exchanges and wish for bouquets of sharpened pencils. We watch them with the belief that things will work out, that a seemingly dysfunctional friendship can make two surprisingly good wedding dates and even better lovers. From Nora Ephron classics such as “You’ve Got Mail” to more recent indie films such as “Plus One” and “Rye Lane,” great romantic comedies, like a life-changing love affair, offer both escape and self-discovery. And, most importantly, they remind us to hope.

In it, Efron plays difficult movie star Chris Cole who falls for Brooke (Kidman), the mother of his 24-year-old assistant, Zara (King). Like the cast, the premise is promising. On its surface, the film could even be touted as a mash-up of Prime Video’s recent age-gap romance “The Idea of You” with a classic “Notting Hill”-esque twist (a movie star falling in love with a non-celebrity).

However, in execution, “A Family Affair” misses the mark and often doesn’t feel like a rom-com at all. Is the movie supposed to be a rom-com with emotional depth or a parody of one? It doesn’t know. This problem is most evident in the stark dichotomy between the characters’ tropey personas and their sincere relationships.

Joey King as Zara Ford and Kathy Bates as Leila Ford in "A Family Affair."

Efron plays a caricature of a movie star, embodying the stereotype of being an out-of-touch celebrity (he hasn’t been to a grocery store in 10 years) who has forgotten how to treat other with respect, especially his assistant Zara. Zara is the quintessential entitled young person who is working her first job and struggling because she’s a — dare I use the term — nepo baby (her mom is basically Joan Didion) who feels like her producing career should begin sooner, so she can step outside of her mom’s shadow. That mom, Brooke, is suffering from writer’s block and hasn’t dated in the decade since her husband died, and she longs to remember what it feels like to be a woman, not a mother or wife to a man who was jealous of her success.

In the opening scene, Zara is cursing in standstill traffic because she’s late to deliver a pair of diamond earrings to Chris, so he can break up with the latest woman he is seeing. Simultaneously, Brooke is across Los Angeles bemoaning to Bates’ character (her former editor and mother-in-law) her inability to write. Neither of these tropes play well.

But the actors do. The result is that Kidman, Efron and King’s delivery of Carrie Solomon’s unbalanced script swings the film from satire to sincerity in a disorienting way. For example, when Chris and Brooke first meet, their conversation is stilted and interesting and unobtrusively funny (he doesn’t know the myth of Icarus despite starring in a huge franchise called “Icarus Rush”). Their first kiss is part of a sweet exchange of dialogue that is one of the movie’s few swoony moments. But, as the encounter becomes steamier, the tone shifts.

Suddenly, a widow who hasn’t kissed someone in a long time is letting a man rip off her dress (but it’s OK because it was 50% off at Nordstrom) and tearing his bespoke shirt made from the wool of an endangered animal off his unbelievably toned body (but she’s worth the unethical clothing’s damage). When King’s character walks in on them and runs into the door, adding physical comedy to the mix, the moment becomes even more confusing. Was it supposed to be sweet, sexy, satirical or silly?

This tonal inconsistency plagues the film. It also emphasizes its plot holes. For example, Chris is so famous that he’s unable to grocery shop, but he can sit in his assistant’s pediatrician office (a setting that is supposed to play as comedic) next to her and her mom who he just slept with. This is the kind of disbelief one might be able to suspend if the other components of the movie were working, but they aren’t.

In "A Family Affair," Efron plays a difficult movie star who falls for the mother (Kidman) of his 24-year-old assistant, Zara (King).



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