A Family Affair Review

A Family Affair
Zara (Zoey King) is already having problems with her boss, an arrogant Hollywood star named Chris Cole (Zac Efron) – but things grow even more complicated when her widowed mother (Nicole Kidman) falls in love with him and the pair get serious.

by David Opie |
Published on

Remember 2012's The Paperboy? In the Lee Daniels-directed cult film, Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron sizzled together on screen in a sexy, sweaty affair that tripled air conditioner sales worldwide. 12 years later, their romantic reunion in A Family Affair is far more tepid. As anyone with eyes can attest, Kidman and Efron are just as hot now as they were back then, and they still share plenty of chemistry this time. In fact, that's one of the few reasons why anyone would recommend this latest romcom from director Richard LaGravenese.

A Family Affair

But the problem is that A Family Affair isn't just a romcom. It's also a coming-of-age story for Zara (Zoey King), a coming-of-middle-age story for her mother Brooke (Kidman), and a slapstick himbo sex comedy for Chris (Efron) as well. Chris says his first date with Brooke feels like "nine dates in one" and Carrie Solomon's debut script is just as jam-packed, so it lacks the nuance to tackle any of these individual ideas effectively. Throw in some lacklustre critique of celebrity and Hollywood and what you're left with is messier than the actual family it portrays. The gall of criticising generic Hollywood scriptwriting in a film like this is especially short-sighted.

It's not all bad, though. King has just enough charm to pull us through an often-unlikeable character arc, while the warmth between Kidman and Kathy Bates (who plays Brooke's mother-in-law) is gorgeous and heartfelt. One scene they share in particular is so good that it feels like it belongs in another movie. It's hard to imagine the film's original title, "Motherfucker", working in moments like these, although it's a shame that the final result lacks that title's vibrant, sorely-needed energy, especially in the humour stakes. You know there's a problem when Chris's "Die Hard meets Miracle on 34th Street" blockbuster, or his horror about invisible zombies who turn your brains into kelp, sound better than the actual film you're watching.

Not even Nicole Kidman playing off Kathy Bates — or Zac Efron singing Cher's Believe — are enough to save what should have been a surefire hit from Hallmark musings and tired clichés.
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