An American Affair Mucks through a Tiresome JFK Conspiracy


Even the most insatiable JFK-conspiracy-theory freak won’t get much juice out of William Sten Olsson’s An American Affair, which subscribes to a pretty tiresome CIA/Cuba scenario (reprisal for failing to assassinate Castro or something). Until the end, all that’s window-dressing for the summer of ’63 story of one Adam Stafford (Cameron Bright), a thoroughly unprepossessing 13-year-old creep. Adam gets into the habit of playing rear window with new neighbor Catherine Caswell (Gretchen Mol), who likes to sit topless in her window in between chauffeured assignations with Kennedy. Having played Bettie Page as an adorably innocent and vacant dominatrix-next-door type, Mol now walks through the part of a blandly free-spirited artist—the kind who tears up her backyard because “form is dead” and goes on acid trips with droning sitar music (in 1963! So ahead of the curve!). You know no good can come of Adam landscaping Catherine’s garden, peaking through her windows at night, and getting caught by trenchcoated CIA types who speak ominously of “the Cubans.” (Many lines like “Christ! Bobby!” ensue.) Only Noah Wyle, as Adam’s unreadable dad, rises above the muck; he deserves his Tarantino-aided resurrection sooner rather than later.