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An American Affair (DVD Review)

28 Jun, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Prebook 6/30/09; Street 7/28/09
Universal/Screen Media
Box Office $0.03 million
$24.98 DVD
Rated ‘R’ for sexual content and language.
Stars Gretchen Mol, Noah Wyle, James Rebhorn, Cameron Bright, Perrey Reeves, Mark Pellegrino.

The early 1960s in the United States had its share of anxiety, from racial unrest, the space race and the Cuban missile crisis to President John F. Kennedy’s dalliances.

Throw in Adam (suitably pubescent Cameron Bright), a 13-year-old coming-of-age Catholic schoolboy whose inquisitive nature focuses on artistic neighbor Catherine (smoldering Gretchen Mol) — a former paramour of JFK — and the result is a well-cast entertaining pseudo-political thriller.

In a time before 24/7 news channels and the Internet, newspapers and network TV focused on the major events of the day, which helps explain why Adam was able to witness from his bedroom window the arrival and departure of the president from Catherine’s home with no hovering paparazzi or subsequent tabloid chatter to follow anywhere.

“Form is dead,” Catherine tells Adam early in their friendship, best describing her avant-garde paintings and non-conformist lifestyle, including one-night stands with different men.

With fallout from the chief executive’s extramarital affairs and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro potentially undermining re-election ambitions, Adam unknowingly has a front-row seat to the clandestine operations of the CIA and other government operatives intent on seeing through their muddled agendas.

Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, of course, changes everything.

The film juxtaposes actual footage of news events (albeit without the Zapruder 8mm color home movie, the only actual footage depicting Kennedy’s shooting in the presidential motorcade) with a fictional story based loosely on Washington socialite Mary Meyer, who hooked up briefly with the 35th president of the United States.

An American Affair is grist for history buffs (though not as good as Oliver Stone’s JFK), while Mol’s sensuality takes care of the rest.

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