An American Affair follows the friendship that develops between a lonely boy and a worldly divorcee in Washington DC during JFK's presidency. The central relationship remains intriguing but the later parts of the film suffer from a routine conspiracy plot. Continual interest in the Kennedy era could attract some attention for this erratic Affair.
In 1963 Adam (Cameron Bright, Thank You For Smoking ) is a 13 year-old student at a DC parochial school. He's unhappy and tells a fellow student "everyone has more fun than we do." He pours over a Playboy Magazine he finds in the garage.
From his bedroom window, his fantasies come to life when he views an undressed woman (Gretchen Moll, The Notorious Bettie Page ) in the house across the street. He becomes obsessed with her, imagining her posing in his purloined magazine. He uses binoculars for a better view. Wanting to know more about her, he steams open her mail, finding, among other things, an invitation to the White House. When caught at her mailbox, he asks her for a job to pay for a school trip. The neighbor, Catherine Craswell, hires him to dig up her garden. Catherine and Adam become comfortable with each other.
The lead actors work well together. Bright's Adam has a frustration and youthful eagerness. Moll is particularly good, combining a free-spirited enthusiasm with the underlying sadness of someone who has "seen and done a lot of things...too many." Catherine is an abstract painter. This emphasizes her unconventional behavior. She’s a woman with a past that everyone seems to know about. Adam sees a photo of Catherine with JFK and discovers that she has a "private" relationship with the president.
In his feature debut, director William Olsson, who was born and raised in Sweden, convincingly depicts the stern atmosphere and shifting alliances at William's school. The relaxed ambiance at Catherine's is a welcome change for William. Well-chosen news clips evoke the period. The film was shot in DC and Baltimore, adding to the authenticity.
The unconventional camaraderie that develops between Catherine and Adam is an engaging focal point for the film. Adam runs into trouble when he tries to duplicate the adult behavior he sees from Catherine and his parents' friends. Adam continues to be obsessed with Catherine, following and photographing her. He also takes her diary. He spies her talking with the chilly Lucian Carver (familiar character actor James Rebhorn) who is with the CIA, as is Catherine's former husband Graham (Mark Pellegrino). Graham also tracks Catherine. The film weakens as it moves away from the central relationship when Catherine becomes involved in a too-familiar conspiracy involving the CIA, an angry Cuban and JFK. Things become more far-fetched when Catherine's access to JFK becomes crucial. Her missing diary puts her in danger. Moll remains a distinctive presence, even when this Affair loses steam.
Screen Media Films
Cast: Gretchen Moll, James Rebhorn, Cameron Bright, Mark Pellegrino and Noah Wyle
Director: William Olsson
Screenwriter: Alex Metcalf
Producers: Kevin Leydon, Carol Flaisher, John Daly and Alex Metcalf
Running Time: 92 min.
Release Date: February 27 DC, March 6 NY/LA