Friday, July 19, 2024


THE STORYAn unexpected romance triggers comic consequences for a young woman, her mother, and her boss, grappling with the complications of love, sex, and identity.

THE CAST Joey King, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Kathy Bates, Liza Koshy & Sherry Cola

THE TEAM Richard LaGravenese (Director) & Carrie Solomon (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 111 Minutes

Hollywood has had enough of men lusting after women half their ages in films; it’s officially the ladies’ turn to get frisky with hunky, younger men. Just this year alone, we had the mature, Anne Hathaway-led romance drama “The Idea of You” that swept viewers in a love affair between an art gallery owner/single mom and boy band heartthrob. Now, Netflix is also getting in on the action with its latest rom-com, “A Family Affair” from director Richard LaGravenese. Similarly, a film on fame and love, this time between a widowed writer and a selfish Hollywood star. Unlike “The Idea of You,” it focuses less on the woman’s story and more on her childish 24-year-old daughter who thinks everything is about her.

Above all else, “A Family Affair” is a tale of people stuck in their lives. Zara (Joey King) is a personal assistant to self-absorbed action star Chris Cole (Zac Efron). When she first started working with him, he promised she’d lead his company. But two years later, she’s still getting his dry cleaning, delivering breakup earrings to his flings, or writing apology letters whenever things don’t go his way. Chris is also in a bind. He can’t commit to any relationship; he’s afraid the latest installment in his Icarus action franchise is going to flop, and his fame is getting in the way of doing things he once loved. One can’t help but wonder if Efron, who has been famous since his “High School Musical” days, feels this way in his own life. He’s recently been candid about pushing his body to unhealthy limits when training for films, and he was nearly brought to tears eating a bowl of pasta in his food/travel show “Down to Earth with Zac Efron.” Despite all of these real, genuine feelings that Chris has, he is still a bully until Zara decides to stand up for herself and quit.

It’s not long until Chris realizes he needs her, especially with filming about to start, and he tries to win her back. In the process, however, he meets and swoons over her mother, Brooke (Nicole Kidman), an accomplished writer who, like Chris and Zara, is also stuck in her own life. It’s been over a decade since her husband passed away, but she still hasn’t been able to move on, and it’s almost impossible for her to write. After a couple of tequila shots, these two get pretty cozy with each other and decide to take things up to the bedroom. Of course, that also just happens to be when Zara returns home, barges in on them (it’s her fault she didn’t knock first!), and is aghast at the sight of them together. So, she embarks on her mission of breaking them up and saving her mother from heartache, which she knows is Chris’ specialty.

This kind of behavior would be expected of a teenager who doesn’t want their parent to move on after the death of their partner. Still, considering that Zara is 24, her mother is in her 50s, and it’s been over a decade since her father died, it’s kind of psychotic to see. She says it’s because she wants to protect her from Chris’ usual antics, which is noble of her, but in reality, she’s just bothered by it and wants to make it about herself. Thankfully, plenty of characters in this film call her out for her behavior, including her grandmother (played by a feisty Kathy Bates), who tells her to get over it and stop acting like a diva, and her best friend Eugenie (Liza Koshy), who is going through her own relationship troubles that Zara doesn’t pay attention to. King does a great job leading the charge in this film despite her character’s flaws, especially as she sets her eyes on moving up in her career to become a producer. The storyline isn’t much of a focus, but she shares some fun scenes with writer pal Stella (played by Sherry Cola, who should have been in the film more).

With so much of a focus on Zara’s tantrums, it takes away from getting to know Brooke, who should have been the lead of the film a la Solène inThe Idea of You.She’s an interesting woman – a successful writer in her youth who made it big – but her story is reduced to watching the sunset from her beautiful beach house, procrastinating on her writing, and dealing with her dramatic daughter. There’s clearly more to this character – Chris is smitten with her almost instantly due to her intelligence, beauty, and charm – and it makes us want to see more of that, too. Kidman is a fantastic actress in many respects, but how she embodies characters and their lives is one of her strong suits. Therefore, having her helm this film would have led to a far more enriched version of Brooke, like seeing who this woman was and is today, why she’s been holding back from love for so long, and why Chris is the guy for her now. The chemistry that Efron and Kidman share is sweet, especially as they go on their first date, which includes a stroll throughNew Yorkon a movie lot, and seeing more of their romance play out from her point of view would have probably made us fall for them even more. It also would have given us more insight into Chris’ character and all that he struggles with, including his relationship to fame and why falling in love has been such a struggle for him as well, instead of sprinkling in tidbits throughout the film.

Nevertheless, “A Family Affair” is still a fine film elevated by its fantastic cast despite a couple of flaws. It’s refreshing to see movies about older women falling in love because, well, women, regardless of age, have desires, no matter how much society doesn’t want to acknowledge them. If only this film had put its accomplished leading lady in the driver’s seat to really drive this point across.


THE GOOD - Strong acting from Joey King, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman and Kathy Bates across the board. Another fun entry into the “older women falling in love” genre.

THE BAD - Focuses too much on Zara and not enough on Brooke, who seems to have a far more interesting story to tell. Similarly, not enough emphasis on Chris and his struggles.



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Ema Sasic
Ema Sasic
Journalist for The Desert Sun. Film critic and awards season enthusiast. Bosnian immigrant

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Strong acting from Joey King, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman and Kathy Bates across the board. Another fun entry into the “older women falling in love” genre.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Focuses too much on Zara and not enough on Brooke, who seems to have a far more interesting story to tell. Similarly, not enough emphasis on Chris and his struggles.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"A FAMILY AFFAIR"