Film Review – A Family Affair

A Family Affair

A Family Affair

A Family Affair (2024) is the kind of rom-com that could’ve done gangbusters about twenty to thirty years ago. All the ingredients are there: big name stars dressed in fancy outfits, a plot that is way more convoluted and messier than it needs to be, and lavish production design that mirrors a world we only see in interior decorating magazines. This is the kind of material Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers would’ve thrived in. And while it doesn’t come close to the likes of When Harry Met Sally… (1989) or even Something’s Gotta Give (2003), there’s enough fun here for those willing to give it a chance. This is a throwback picture for those that like their escapism light, fluffy, and charming.

The on-screen charisma of the cast does all the heavy lifting. Nicole KidmanZac Efron, and Joey King play off one another with ease. Their repartee will make or break the viewing experience for audiences. Efron plays Chris Cole – a wealthy movie star whose lack of self-awareness blinds him from the fact that he mistreats his personal assistant, Zara (King). Zara has been looking to break into the movie industry as a producer, but after two years of tending to her boss’ every demand, is starting to double think whether it is all worth it. Kidman is Brooke Harwood, a successful author who also happens to be Zara’s mother. Things get complicated when, after Chris runs into Brooke by happenstance, the actor and author engage in a relationship. This puts added stress on Zara, who knows Chris’ philandering history and worries that her mother will end up being just another notch in his belt.


If this had been any other story, the meat of the narrative would have Zara trying to break up Chris and Brooke’s relationship with increasingly absurd hijinks. However, director Richard LaGravenese (with screenwriter Carrie Solomon) sidesteps the obvious screwball antics with a more grounded approach. A back and forth dynamic is created amongst the trio: Brooke and Chris want to expand their romance without hurting Zara, Zara and Chris try maintaining their work relationship despite him knocking boots with her mom, and Brooke and Zara try to sustain their mother/daughter connection even though Zara’s professional and personal lives have now blurred together. Not exactly the deepest or most thought provoking set up, is it? If any of these characters were slightly more mature or level headed, this entire ordeal could’ve been avoided with a single grown up conversation. But alas, if that were the case, we wouldn’t have a movie, would we?

A Family Affair continues the long Hollywood tradition of love stories playing out in absurdly over-stylized locations. Every backdrop we run into exudes wealth and style. Chris lives in a modernized mansion made up of white walls, marble countertops, and floor to ceiling windows. He’s so wealthy that he can afford a statue rendition of an AT-AT from Empire Strikes Back (1980), done completely in red. The over-the-top nature of his home lends to some funny physical gags, such as when Zara must use all her strength just to open and close the front door. Brooke’s home is on the opposite end of the spectrum, but no less lavish. Her Spanish-style residence is furnished to constantly remind us of her creative and artistic personality, from the countless books that adorn her shelves to the intricately made rugs that hang from her wall (because the floor would never do). Clearly, none of these people are particularly uncomfortable with their living conditions. 

The writing and direction allow for some inspired sequences that work in a vacuum. The most romantic scene has Chris taking Brooke around the studio backlot after hours, trying on outfits in the costume department and walking down the streets as though they were alone in the city at night. Another fun instance involves Zara interpreting a French director’s instructions to Chris while shooting his latest picture. The contrast between what the director is saying compared to Zara’s aggressive translations make for an amusing interaction. These are some of the high points in what is otherwise an uneven plot. There are peaks and valleys in the storytelling. Just when we think things will take off and get going, it undermines itself by meandering aimlessly. The supporting cast – including Kathy Bates and Liza Koshy as Zara’s grandmother and best friend, respectively – are welcomed additions, but they don’t add much to the proceedings. They exist as cogs for the main characters to self-analyze themselves, like a shoulder to lean on or someone to give sage advice when needed. 


What A Family Affair severely lacks is a sense of urgency. The tone is too laid back, too passive. Instead of this feeling like a turning point in the characters’ lives, it plays out like a minor steppingstone. A lot of this is due to Zara’s character development. Her disapproval of Brooke and Chris being together doesn’t come off as a serious hurdle to overcome. Sure, there is a big age gap between her mom and her boss, but they are also two grown, consenting adults. Yes, it’s admirable that Zara wants to protect her mother from being hurt, but has she considered that maybe her mother is smart enough to avoid that trap? Did she stop to think that her mom is fully aware of the risks but decides to be with Chris anyway? One can make the argument that Zara being unreasonably upset is the entire point of the film to begin with. But the execution never makes her perspective more than a silly overreaction. 

Can a movie be good simply for the set decorations? That’s kind of where I stand with A Family Affair. The themes are paper thin, the comedy is pleasant at best, and the drama carries the weight of a paper towel. But boy, is it pretty to look at! Check out those couches! And the Christmas decorations! And the closet space! And the outdoor patios! Are we watching a movie or a show on HGTV?




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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