‘A Family Affair’: A Confused Script Gets in the Way of Nicole Kidman Getting Her Groove Back

Nicole Kidman is Brooke Harwood, a famed author, mother and widow who embarks on the next chapter in her life in Netflix’s latest romantic comedy, “A Family Affair.” The other main member of this titular familial unit is Zara Ford (Joey King), Brooke’s daughter, who dreams of becoming a film producer. Currently, she is employed as the personal assistant of a self-absorbed movie star, Chris Cole (Zac Efron). All three appear to be stuck in their respective ruts, until a surprise romance between Brooke and Chris shakes things up.

At 24, Zara has a job that many her age would envy, working for an A-list star. Not surprisingly, her day-to-day duties are not too glamorous, and some of Chris’ asks, such as having her buy a pair of break-up diamond earrings for his soon-to-be-ex, are downright embarrassing. He has been stringing her along for two years by promising that she will eventually run his production company, but his douchebaggery leads her to a breaking point and she quits. Desperate to get her back, he pays a visit to Brooke’s home, where she lives. Zara’s out, but her mom lets Chris in. One thing leads to another and they start having sex. Needless to say, Zara has a strong reaction when she catches them in the act, but Chris mollifies her by making her an associate producer on his latest big-budget flick. He also makes a promise that he cannot keep, and that is that he will stay away from Brooke.

Directed by Richard LaGravenese, “A Family Affair” is at its most enjoyable when the focus is on Brooke and Chris’ opposites-attract love affair. Scenes of them frolicking on the beach and having stolen romantic moments pair well with a nice glass of wine. However, what could have been a fun escapist film becomes a trudge to get through due to the fact it feels like two films crammed together. The romance plot competes too much with Zara’s storyline, which revolves heavily around her career. We are all for a young woman working her way up in the world, but the whole Hollywood movie about Hollywood subgenre has been done to death lately (i.e. “The Fall Guy,” “The Bubble,” “Babylon,” etc.), and this film does not have anything fresh to say about the industry.

“A Family Affair” also gets lost in its many characters, which leads to too many side conversations that slow down an already overstuffed film. Kathy Bates co-stars in a one-note role as Leila, Zara’s saintly grandmother and Brooke’s former mother-in-law, who mostly just serves as a sounding board to the latter, spouting off platitudes. Zara has two best friends who could have easily been one character. First, there is Stella (Sherry Cola), a writer whom Zara pushes Chris to hire to rewrite his latest film. She fades away early on, and Zara gloms onto longtime friend Eugenie (Liza Koshy), whom she stays with for a period. Eugenie breaks up with her boyfriend and Zara does not even notice, which is supposed to show us how self-involved Zara has become. However, a little bit of explanation about the breakup would have been nice. And, how does Stella feel after Chris passes on her rewrite, which supposedly sucks thanks to Zara’s notes? We never know. After a while, it becomes tiresome to watch a slew of top-tier actors work overtime to try to make this unruly mess of a script work.

 “A Family Affair” begins streaming June 28 on Netflix.