A Family Affair (2024)

Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron make for charming company in Netflix’s “A Family Affair.”

Netflix’s stinky ‘Family Affair’ really drops a load

The last time Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron got together, in 2012’s “The Paperboy,” she infamously went No. 1 on his six-pack. This time, in the stinker Netflix calls “A Family Affair,” both are targets of a big No. 2 deposited by a rookie screenwriter and middling director.

Sorry to be crude, but it irks me to witness talented actors so egregiously wasted in what amounts to a dumbed-down variation on Prime Video’s recent gem, “The Idea of You,” in which a young, world-famous star falls for an older single mom who doesn’t get out much anymore. Wait, the correlation doesn’t end there. There’s also the premise of a similarly self-obsessed daughter mortified by the idea of Mommy knocking boots with a guy old enough to be her older brother.

That would be Efron’s Chris Cole, allegedly one of Hollywood’s hunkiest action stars and face of the hugely successful “Icarus Rush” franchise. A bit of a narcissist, Chris admittedly has no friends and is overly dependent on his harried personal assistant, Zara Ford (Joey King), whose duties include doing his shopping, serving as a motivational coach and cleaning up the wreckage of his frequent romantic mishaps. In return, she’s been promised the opportunity to one day head his production company.

Even though Zara is all of 24, she’s ready to throw in the towel on her dream job. Besides, Chris is such a pain in the ass, she’s at her wit’s end. So, she quits for what you suspect is about the dozenth time. Per usual, Chris comes to her on bended knee, but his time his apology gets derailed unexpectedly by Zara’s mother, respected author and 11-year widow, Brooke Harwood, who in the form of Kidman is an undeniable MILF.

During a lazy afternoon spent sipping wine, the two improbably end up in bed. When Zara catches wind of it, she’s understandably grossed out. But she’s also worried about her fragile mom’s psyche, knowing only too well Chris’ penchant for loving and leaving, dalliances that always end with the conciliatory presentation of a pair of flashy diamond earrings.

Thus, the groundwork is laid for Carrie Solomon’s discombobulated script, which emerges fully loaded with jarring tonal shifts and cartoonish characterizations. Like Zara, Solomon was 24 when she wrote “A Family Affair,” drawing inspiration from her experiences toiling as a personal assistant to a hammy Broadway actor she envisioned bedding her soon-to-be-divorced mother. Creepy, right? You bet.

That’s just scratching the surface of the movie’s many liabilities accentuated by listless direction on the part of Richard LaGravenese, who in his heyday penned the likes of “The Fisher King,” “A Little Princess” and “The Bridges of Madison County.” Nowadays, he risks his legacy by directing junk like “Freedom Writers,” “Beautiful Creatures” and this wrongheaded coming-of-age pablum that panders to the lowest common denominator.

He also shamelessly trades in wealth porn, setting his story in lavish mansions featuring opulent decor and closets full of high-end designer duds providing Kidman ample opportunity to slink around in gowns by Chanel and Dior. She looks sensational, too.

You’re convinced a “movie star,” as Chris refers to himself, would go gaga over this beauty 16 years his senior. Bolstering the credibility of the pairing is the magic the vulnerable Efron and the coquettish Kidman summon. They are so good together, you lament the litany of clunky lines they’re contractually obligated to deliver.

When they share the screen, “A Family Affair” is remotely watchable. But whenever King literally stumbles into the picture, it jerks to a halt. It’s as if she wandered in from a slapstick comedy, doing pratfalls, banging into doors and frequently flying into uncontrollable tizzies. She’s so out of sync with the rhythm of the picture that it results in a tonal nightmare. Is this how Solomon behaved around her real-life boss?

It’s as disconcerting as the random appearances by Kathy Bates as Brooke’s mother-in-law, Leila, and Liza Koshy as Zara’s BFF, Eugenie. Neither serves any purpose, and both characters are so wanly written that they practically disappear into the lush backgrounds that scream money, money, money! The epitome being Brooke’s oceanside home, which is to die for.

Alas, the same cannot be said for the movie that persistently obscures our perspective. What we do see is largely trite, predictable and a slog at 111 minutes. It’s fun seeing Kidman and Efron back together again, but regrettably, it’s of service to a by-the-numbers – especially No. 2 – affair that can’t be flushed soon enough.

Movie review

A Family Affair

Rated: PG-13 for partial nudity, some strong language and sexual content

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Joey King and Kathy Bates

Director: Richard LaGravenese

Writer: Carrie Solomon

Runtime: 112 minutes

Where: On Netflix beginning June 28

Grade: C-

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