Monday, July 1, 2024

A Family Affair: A Review (Review #1823)



To begin my A Family Affair review, I start with this story. My cousin and her partner went to see Madonna in concert. They flew out to Los Angeles the day of the concert, which I think was a mistake. I always recommend going at least the day before, so you can be there on time, but I digress. They inevitably had flight delays, causing them to arrive later than they planned and forcing them to rush to the venue. Despite these issues, they did arrive on time, at least they did. Madonna was two hours late for her own concert. It was from what I think I was told a lackluster performance. My cousin's partner was not amused by the Material Girl's diva behavior. She has permanently sworn off ever going to another of her performances. At the end of this concert, she yelled out, "BITCH, MY TIME IS IMPORTANT TOO!".

That is how I feel after watching A Family Affair, a lazy, poorly acted, written, directed excuse for a movie that took two hours out of my life when I could have been doing anything else, things that are more important. A Family Affair is the nadir of filmmaking: plotless and pointless, it does nothing except take up everyone's time.

Zara Ford (Joey King) is the longsuffering personal assistant to movie star Chris Cole (Zac Efron), star of the Icarus Rush franchise. Chris promised to show Zara the ropes of the movie industry when he first hired her two years ago. Unsurprisingly, he hasn't, instead making her do mundane jobs and having her bring his current girlfriend diamond earrings whenever he inevitably dumps them. His newest Icarus Rush film is, as he describes it, "Die Hard meets Miracle on 34th Street". Zara tells him it's idiotic and urges him to bring in her friend Stella Poms (Sherry Cola) for rewrites.

Finally, after literally locking her out of his mansion, Zara quits. Finding life impossible to run without her, he goes to Zara's home, or rather her mother Brooke's (Nicole Kidman) home as Zara still lives there. Brooke, a successful writer and recent widow, is at first alarmed to find Zara's ex-employer there unannounced. As they wait for Zara, they start talking, then drinking, then having sex after a few tequilas. Zara walks in on them and is horrified.

Chris is drawn to our cougar, much to Brooke's initial confusion and later joy. Zara is appalled and takes every opportunity to make Chris' on-set life miserable. Will Zara come around? Will Zara's grandmother and Brooke's mother-in-law Leila (Kathy Bates) help bridge the May-December romance and turn Zara around?

I think Netflix has earned a reputation of cranking out bad movies so as to have something to put on their streaming service. It is the worst of all possible worlds: a studio able to produce junk just for the content. A Family Affair is my first experience, at least to my memory, of a project deliberately made so as to fill up space. 

I cannot call A Family Affair a disaster because I cannot call it a movie. I cannot call it anything other than a waste of time for those who made the film and those who endured the film. Carrie Solomon has no business writing for films, not if A Family Affair is any proof of her abilities. She was, according to her IMDB profile, a personal assistant herself before debuting with A Family Affair. This is proof positive that one actually cannot always write from personal experience. 

Some of her lines are groan-inducingly bad. After Chris finally promotes her to an associate producer on the newest Icarus Rush film, Zara typically whines about it, saying she does not want it just because her mom is sleeping with a celebrity. "A celebrity? She didn't sleep with a celebrity, okay? That's derogatory. She slept with a movie star". I'm sure that sounded hilarious to Solomon. To be fair, it might have come off funny in the right hands. Unfortunately, neither Efron nor director Richard LaGravenese were the right hands.

Efron's delivery of this line was forced and lazy. He clearly thought the line was stupid, because there was not an ounce of believability in his performance. I can respect an actor who at least is trying to make things work with a bad script like Sam Rockwell attempted with Argylle. Efron couldn't or wouldn't (I suspect the latter). At one point, Chris shows Zara a beloved sweater made from an endangered species. "It's one of a kind. I have two!" he yells. This, to Solomon's mind, is supposed to show Chris' total stupidity and lack of awareness. As performed by Efron and directed by LaGravenese, it shows that the former thinks the line is stupid and the latter too stupid to see the actor thinks it's stupid. 

Joey King does nothing but whine throughout A Family Affair. She does the impossible: make the audience side with her obnoxious, dimwitted mama-schtupping boss. Whether trying to make him suffer on set by deliberately mistranslating the French director's instructions to communicate her anger at her boss screwing her mother or berating her mother for living her life as she sees fit, Zara is unlikable, generally unsympathetic and generally stupid. When, for example, Chris sends her to buy some protein whose brand he is vaguely aware of, she wanders through the store on the phone with him until she appears to come upon the right one.

She describes it over the phone to him, but I asked, "Why doesn't she just take a picture and text it to him to confirm if it's the right one?" I think that is what rational people would do. There are no rational people in A Family Affair

There are other things that are either dumb or illogical in A Family Affair. Sherry Cola, who apparently thrives in garbage like last year's worst film Joy Ride, is useless as a character. She adds nothing to the plot and could have been dumped altogether. She also talks about how her screenplay is "a coming of queer dramedy", which makes me wonder what all this nonsense is. Solomon also includes a scene where in the latest Icarus Rush film being made, Chris is told to stop shooting his weapon. An understandably puzzled Chris asks why to which Zara replies that people have a problem with guns in this country. 

That makes no sense on any level. Icarus Rush is an action franchise. Audiences know they will be getting violent scenes with weapons. It would be like saying that a John Wick film cannot have gunplay because "people have problems with guns in this country". I imagine even some gun control advocates love the John Wick franchise. I figure those people are not stupid and can separate reality from fantasy. This line just does not fit anywhere.

A lot of A Family Affair does not make sense. Apparently, Zara is still going to a pediatrician for medical care based on the doctor's office they rushed to when she hit her head attempting to escape her mother's bedroom after seeing Brooke and Chris knocking boots. To be fair, as Zara is essentially a child, a pediatrician would be appropriate. Efforts to make this cinematic, especially in the conclusion, fell horrendously flat.

As a side note, Chris is so stupid that despite being on what I think is his third Icarus Rush film, it takes Brooke to explain the origins of Icarus to him.

Kidman's performance here reminds me of her performance in The Stepford Wives. It was bad. It was forced. It was insincere. There is no way a few tequilas would have them doing the nasty, though to be fair we do get to see that Zac Efron is still a fit guy. While she did herself no favors, I did not dislike Kathy Bates here. I do not know if she was genuinely trying in the Sam Rockwell in Argylle way. I can at least say she was not embarrassing herself.

A Family Affair is not even sitcom-level bad. It is on a whole other level of badness. It certainly should not run two hours long. I don't even think it should go 90 minutes. Or 60 minutes. Or 30 minutes. Or 15 minutes. 

A Family Affair, I will concede, is as bad as Argylle. It is on the same level of bad as Argylle. Is it worse? By the thinnest of margins, no. First, unlike in Argylle, I actually did laugh, albeit once, in A Family Affair; during their shouting match Zara tells him that Die Hard meets Miracle on 34th Street is a stupid concept that he cannot see. "It's not a Stevie Wonder biopic", she says, and for some reason I actually found that funny. Zara also makes a reference to Love in the Afternoon that took me by surprise. 

A Family Affair is the embodiment of a time waster, the type of film of which it can be said that it robbed two hours out of the viewers' lives that they will never get back. Life is too short to waste on garbage like A Family Affair.

Ultimately, A Family Affair is barely better than Argylle



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