An American Affair is a sombre movie like that of say The Virgin Suicides. It stars Cameron Bright (Birth, X-Men: The Last Stand) as Adam, a 13-year-old peeping tom who falls in love with his beautiful neighbor Catherine Caswell (Gretchen Mol). The more Adam uncovers about his neighbor the more intriguing she becomes.
The film is set in 1963 and it turns out that Catherine is one of Kennedy’s mistresses on the dawn of the Cuban Missle Crisis. So the closer Adam become to discovering her secrets the more he finds himself up to his neck in the politics of the day.
The way the audience and Adam are brought into the politics of 1963 is quite interesting. We see it through a troubled adolesence and the film never hammers home all the details around Kennedy.
Sure there is tons of newsreel footage in the film but the characters themselves only name drop and discuss their feelings. Which is how a 13-year-old would understand the conversations of the time. In simple truths.
Another thing that is interesting about the film is the character of Catherine Caswell. She feels so real as if she was a signpost in history for that era.
After doing a little digging, I found that she is actually loosely based on the real life mistress Mary Pinchot Meyer.
And it is incredible the parallels that are between the character and this real mistress. Once you learn that, the movie is taken to a whole new level.
Gretchen Mol’s Catherine is once more another tour de force performance from tha actress. In every movie she has ever done she shines. She was staggering in The Notorious Bettie Page and I still think she should have gotten her first Oscar nod for that film. She is such an underrated actress always tops my list as one of Hollywood’s hidden gems. I hope one day she will get the recognition she deserves.
Cameron Bright is intriguing yet again as a boy confused about the world around him and his own emerging sexuality. He has this desperation and bewilderment always in his eyes that you are never sure if its his character or the boy himself. As he grows up I am looking to see some really interesting performances from him.
Overall, American Affair is a really interesting blend of fact and fiction coupled with another tremendous performance from Gretchen Mol.
3.5 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer