‘A Family Affair’ unites Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron in a slim idea for a rom-com

Brian Lowry

The “Older woman dates younger star” concept is getting a workout lately, with “The Idea of You” now followed by “A Family Affair,” which could easily be called “The Idea of My Movie-Star Boss Sleeping With My Mom.” While the Nicole Kidman-Zac Efron pairing should provoke curiosity, the tired beats of this romantic (and only occasional) comedy don’t rub together well enough to generate many sparks.

Part of the problem is the perspective tilts heavily toward the Kidman character’s daughter, Zara (Joey King), who works as an assistant to actor Chris Cole (Efron), best known for playing a superhero called Icarus Rush. To Zara’s chagrin, he’s prone to stereotypical excesses, sending her on menial errands like running to a store to buy him isolated whey protein. (If you have to ask, it’s not for you.)

Zara has watched Chris use and dump women, threatening to quit almost as often as he talks about firing her. Their latest spat brings him to the house she shares with her mom, Kidman’s Brooke, a successful and conveniently widowed author.

After some mild awkwardness, Chris and Brooke wind up in bed together, leaving her, as she says, “starting to feel things again.” Zara is understandably horrified by the prospect of the two hooking up, prompting her mom to offer that their age difference is a mere 16 years, not 20 (which is more accurate in reality, but never mind), so maybe just May-September in calendar terms.

A Family Affair. Joey King as Zara Ford in A Family Affair. Cr. Aaron Epstein/Netflix © 2024

Directed by Richard Lagravenese – whose most pertinent credit here might be adapting the screenplay for “The Bridges of Madison County” – “A Family Affair” suffers from the wholesale self-absorption of all concerned, which makes the notion of this as some grand romance harder to swallow. Not that the director along with writer Carrie Solomon don’t try, including a dinner scene with Zara’s grandma (Kathy Bates, again underemployed) that works hard at humanizing Chris beyond just Efron’s “Iron Claw”-sculpted physique.

While there are a few amusing lines scattered along the way (when Brooke says she’s Australian, Chris asks if she knows Margot Robbie), the comedy largely fizzles beyond the initial introductions, and the romance – after that first encounter – doesn’t come across as terribly convincing.

That leaves some star charisma, but not enough chemistry, to propel this across the finish line, dragging the customary Hollywood cliches – and lots of musical montages, seemingly to fill out the running time – along with it.

Granted, “A Family Affair” probably qualified as a win for Netflix as soon as Kidman and Efron signed on the dotted lines, at least in terms of the algorithm and minutes-watched totals their pairing will generate.

Even setting the expectations bar at a modest height, though, the movie doesn’t quite clear it – another case, in rom-com terms, where the idea of them, as a marquee matchup, proves superior to the execution.

“A Family Affair” premieres June 28 on Netflix. It’s rated PG-13.

Related Articles

Back to top button