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An Affirmative Act: A Social-Issue Tract Obscured by Showy Genre Twists

A promising story obscured by showy genre twists, An Affirmative Act is launched as a social-issue tract about a lesbian couple in New Jersey who married and adopted a child while one of them posed as a man. Directed by first-timer Jana Mattioli, the film veers into the narrow channels of the bare-bulb courtroom melodrama and then the rapids of the lurid conspiracy thriller before washing ashore in pieces. Busted for fraud, Samantha (Elissa Goldstein) and Terry (Candice Holdorf) are threatened with seven years in prison. The couple’s rejection of a deal offered by a shifty prosecutor (Blanche Baker) comprises the film’s modest moral stake: They broke the law because the law was broken. A hotshot lawyer (Eric Etebari) takes up the case, only to be drawn into the wrong end of a statewide conspiracy to enact an anti-gay marriage bill while nobody’s looking. The governor (Justin Deas), a Confederate Hitler-lover (Thomas G. Waites), and a mythical mob honcho known as the Man in the White Suit (Charles Durning) walk into a bar. . . . No, they work together to hijack the case for different reasons, none of which are particularly clear or of particular interest by the time all is laboriously said and haplessly done.


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