A Family Affair

Despite its silly stereotypes, this comedy shows that relationships, life, faith, and whatnot, are just as messy for the gays as they are for the straights.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Comedy, Romance

Director: Helen Lesnick

Actors: Helen Lesnick, Erica Shaffer, Arlene Golonka

Year: 2001

MPAA Rating: NR

Country: United States

I have to admit when the title of this movie popped up on screen with the word “Family” written in a rainbow of letters, my eyes rolled. In the first 20 minutes, we are introduced to Rachel, a 30-something Jewish New Yorker, who has moved to Southern California to be with her parents after a breakup. Oh, look at the New Yorker with dry sarcastic wit and all-black clothes! Look at the ding-a-ling Californians in their pastels, with their skin so tan, and their dinner plates full of salad! I swear, do New Yorkers and Californians realize that these stereotypes are only funny to those people that live there? The rest of us DON’T CARE (especially when it is implied that those are the only two regions in this vast and varied country that matter).

So yeah, A Family Affair got off on the wrong foot for me.

Anyways, I was ready to pop this film out of my DVD player after 20 minutes, but decided to buck up and give it a little more time. To my surprise, the film actually got more interesting.

The movie starts with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge warning (with Rachel talking directly to the camera) that this is a movie for The Gays, and if you didn’t realize this, well, here’s your chance to leave the theater (or turn off your player, if you will). It implies (and certainly follows through for the first chunk of the film), that this a movie strictly for gays and lesbians, with lots of in-jokes and stereotypes abounding. But once A Family Affair beats that theme to death, it actually becomes a more universal film, dealing with ex-lovers, troubled relationships, the trials of meeting the future in-laws, and the fear of commitment.

Rachel meets a nice girl named Christine, who is as opposite from her as, gosh, New York City and Southern California (har! har! har!). They click (we are led to believe) from a rather vapid conversation, and next thing you know, they are a happy couple of over a year. Rachel has learned to relax into the Californian ways, and Christine is hinting not only at marriage, but of conversion to the Jewish faith. “Yikes!” says Rachel, on both counts. Rachel’s friends and family can’t quite put their finger on Rachel’s hesitation, but when her ex, Reggie, swoops in from New York, like a Ghost of Mind-F*** Relationships past, it all comes clear that Rachel is not quite over her.

A Family Affair can be easily dubbed a Jewish Lesbian My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which, unfortunately has set the standard for all culture-clash romances to come). But it actually rises above that, by having more three-dimensional characters, showing the importance of the Jewish faith in Rachel’s family, and delving into the complexities of having to deal with your past. If you can overcome the sometimes annoying narration, and the occasional bad acting (Suzanne Westenhoefer, stick to being a stand-up comic!), A Family Affair actually ain’t that bad.


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