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IN SHORT: Great poster. Lousy film. [Rated R. 93 minutes]
Only the youngest among us will know of a time when (we) didn't have a president who engaged in a little marital infidelity while in office. Strangely enough, one of the "answers" on this evening's episode of Jeopardy linked the infidelity of president Garfield to his death, allegedly poisoned by his spurned wife. That little bit of trivia was enough to drive just about everything related to the release of An American Affair out of our thoughts. So give us a minute while we try and recall . . .
JFK + Marilyn Monroe. OK, got it.
Has there been any president in the last century or so whose history has been overwhelmed by rumors and conspiracies and rumors of conspiracies as John Fitzgerald Kennedy? Kennedy's assassination is a mere pin prick in the overall story of An American Affair, in which Catherine Caswell (Gretchen Mol) the ex-wife of a CIA agent (Mark Pellegrino, may or may not be messing with . . .
Hold on. Did we tell you about the thirteen year old peeping tom who lives in the townhouse next door? HIs name is Adam Stafford (Cameron Bright) and his parents Adrienne and Mike Stafford (Perrey Reeves and Noah Wyle), while not aware of their boy's adventures in binocular exploration, have a bad feeling about the hot to trot bleached blonde who has moved in. Adam is told to stay away, but masturbation fantasies being what they are -- Catherine is not only gorgeous, she isn't shy about showing off her spectacular bod. For a boy who's been sneaking looks at Playboy magazine, the real thing is inspirational. While Adam does catch Catherine with the occasional stud, it is only when men in trench coats come a surrounding the building one night that he take particular notice. Gee, the stud kinda looks like . . . JFK! But Adam isn't quite sure.
Despite warnings by the parental units to keep away from the new neighbor, Adam wheedles his way in and manages to get a summer job from the woman, who wants a classically styled garden in the back yard of her townhouse demolished. As the summer progresses, Catherine teaches Adam about modern deconstructionist art, and the passion to be found within a canvas. For his part, Adam learns to paint, spends every spare dollar he earns on photographic film to take long lens shots of the naked Catherine as she struts around (etc etc etc) and, failing to capture any photos of the lady with the man he thinks is the prez, Adam sneaks into Catherine's house and goes searching for clues. What he finds is a diary detailing whispered intimacies about things involving Cuba and, caught red handed, Catherine doesn't seem much to care if he borrows the book for reading material.
Unfortunately, Cuban nationals and her hubby's CIA boss (James Rebhorn) are very interested in the diary. So would Adam's dad (Noah Wyle) be -- if he's the kind of newspaper reporter we think he is. The character background and development of the supporting characters in this film is downright pathetic. The attempt to turn the diary into the gist of a murder conspiracy theory is so incredibly old hat that we'll finish this out with what facts we actually know.
JFK did have an affair with Marilyn Monroe, when he was a senator from the great state of Massachusetts. When he was elected president, such a high profile affair could not be tolerated -- especially with rumors of phone taps and ties to organized crime involving Monroe and/or JFK's bootlegging father -- so Marilyn was foisted off on brother Bobby. Then came the Cuban Missile Crisis and, as the rumor goes, Bobby spilled his guts in pillow talk which Marilyn recorded in her written diary. When Bobby tried to distance himself, allegedly Monroe threatened to make the diary public and, as the conspirati would have it, was murdered instead.
That would make a very interesting suspense film but the need to avoid getting too specific with allegations about famous dead people (why the screen writer didn't pull a standard Law & Order shtick and change one more name to, say president Fitzgerald, is beyond me) turns the back end of the film into a CIA plot driven gobbledygook of a mess.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to An American Affair, he would have paid . . .
Capital "D" Duller than you'd think.
What? Did you think we were going to reveal whether or not Adam gets his cherry picked by the lovely neighbor? Well, there are friends and there are friends, if you know what I mean. Those desperate to see Ms. Mol naked are advised to wait and rent and make liberal use of the pause button.
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