Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron in 'A Family Affair'
(Netflix)

Nicole Kidman’s New Netflix Movie Continues an Exhausting Trend

There’s something odd about the trailer for A Family Affair, the new Netflix rom-com starring Nicole Kidman as a woman who gets involved with her daughter’s boss, played by Zac Efron. It feels similar to the recent Anne Hathaway rom-com The Idea of You in one very specific aspect.

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A Family Affair isn’t based on fanfic—at least not that I know of, but it could be, given the plot: Efron plays Chris Cole, a movie star (similar to real life, his career began early) who falls for his assistant Zara (Joey King)’s mom, Brooke (Kidman). Shenanigans ensue, per the trailer:

The age gap between Chris and Brooke is an obvious source of discomfort for Zara, in addition to Brooke being her mom, of course. As a viewer, the age difference doesn’t hit me as particularly scandalous; they’re both adults, there’s no predatory behavior involved, and, after all, male actors are often paired with much younger women as romantic interests. But that’s the thing: we’ve been conditioned to accept romantic pairings between older men and younger women, both on screen and off. For an older woman to get involved with a younger man, there needs to be an entire movie about it. She can’t just hook up with the younger hottie and move along—she has to fully get her groove back, reconnect with her sexuality, prove that she’s a person with her own desires and not just someone’s middle-aged mom. In essence, she has to justify why a younger man would be interested in her and why she deserves romantic happiness (and in some ways, sexual pleasure).

Even if the older woman character is confident in her image and sexuality, she still needs to prove something to the audience. When older women pursue younger men in movies, the result is either a disturbing drama (To Die For, May December, The Piano Teacher), or a personal journey of empowerment for either or both characters (How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Idea of You, Good Luck to You Leo Grande, and so on). In any case, the relationship is almost always the focal point because it’s “unconventional,” the same way we’re told that a woman who’s a size 8 instead of a size 2 is fat and therefore an underdog whose romance with a typical hunk is a pleasant surprise; or being told that Mae Whitman is the titular “designated ugly fat friend” in The Duff (a movie no one remembers for this exact reason). What it always comes down to is: can you believe this (fat, ugly, old) woman is HORNY?! And that someone wants to have sex … WITH HER??????

It’s a chicken-and-the-egg situation. Did we develop this view of relationships between older women and younger men from the media, or is the media merely reflecting societal perceptions? As with most things, it’s a little of both, feeding on each other in an infinite cannibalistic loop, the end result always someone like me writing an article like this.

A Family Affair hits Netflix on June 28.


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Author
Britt Hayes
Britt Hayes (she/her) is an editor, writer, and recovering film critic with over a decade of experience. She has written for The A.V. Club, Birth.Movies.Death, and The Austin Chronicle, and is the former associate editor for ScreenCrush. Britt's work has also been published in Fangoria, TV Guide, and SXSWorld Magazine. She loves film, horror, exhaustively analyzing a theme, and casually dissociating. Her brain is a cursed tomb of pop culture knowledge.