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Hear Me Out

Joey King Is the Only Reasonable Person in Netflix's A Family Affair

Everyone around her character is a mess, but especially the "f*ckboy" played by Zac Efron.
  • Joey King in A Family Affair (Photo: Netflix)
    Joey King in A Family Affair (Photo: Netflix)

    In Hear Me Out, Primetimer staffers and contributors passionately espouse their pet theories, spicy takes, and even the occasional galaxy-brain idea.

    The entire plot of A Family Affair can basically be summed up as that scene in The Office where Pam yells at Michael to stop dating her mother and he famously responds with, “You know what? I’m gonna start dating her even harder.” 

    The Richard LaGravenese film, which premieres June 28 on Netflix, centers on Zara (Joey King), a 24-year-old Hollywood assistant whose world is turned upside down when her widowed mother Brooke (Nicole Kidman) starts dating her boss Chris Cole (Zac Efron), a swoony movie star and the walking definition of a man-child. 

    If you’re expecting a slightly ridiculous, sweet May-December romance flick like The Idea of You, be prepared for a rude awakening. Unlike the charming Hayes Campbell, Chris Cole absolutely sucks. In fact, he sucks so much that he might beat out House of the Dragon f*ckboy Ser Criston Cole (note the eerily similar names) for the title of “worst Cole.” 

    Chris is an awful boss to Zara — he constantly threatens to fire her, forces her write him a personal apology letter any time she slightly messes up, and makes her order $500 lotion from Japan “just for his elbows.” He also love bombs every woman he dates, then always dumps them by taking them to New York Street, letting them down “gently,” and giving each one of them the exact same pair of diamond earrings in hopes that they’ll forget what a flaming jerk he is. His only redeeming qualities are: one, he’s hot (duh, it's Zac Efron); two, he loves his dogs; and three, he (maybe) has a decent heart somewhere deep down. 

    It seems pretty understandable that Zara wouldn’t be thrilled about her mom hooking up with her boss, let alone a boss as insufferable as Chris. Yet for some godforsaken reason, everyone around her can’t wrap their heads around why she isn’t totally on board with their romance. A Family Affair treats Zara like a bratty teenager who can’t just grow up and be happy for her mother when, in reality, she’s the only person being remotely reasonable throughout this unhinged movie.

    It would be one thing if Brooke and Chris simply went to Zara directly and admitted their feelings, but that’s not how this mess unfolds — instead, she literally walks in on them having casual sex. See, the scent of Brooke’s sunscreen inexplicably turned Chris on one afternoon, then they both naturally got super horny, which led to them furiously making out on the couch, which then led to… welp! Sorry about the permanent damage to your eyeballs, Zara!

    Although Brooke and Chris initially swear their hookup was “just sex” (words everyone wants to hear from their mother), they soon start dating for real. “There seems to be more to him,” Brooke insists to Zara. “More to him than you think.” Chris magically begins to shed his f*ckboy ways and somehow transforms into a gentleman seemingly overnight, but Zara is understandably still skeptical. She explains that she just doesn’t want her mom to get hurt, having seen firsthand the way he’s treated every other girlfriend, but nobody cares to listen.

    Chris somehow even wins the approval of Zara’s grandmother (Kathy Bates), who invites him to the family Christmas gathering without any heads up. “Your moody, mopey attitude is gonna be the end of all of us,” she scolds her granddaughter. “Be a grown-up.” What did poor Zara do to deserve this family? 

    Look, we get why Brooke wants to have some fun — her husband, with whom she had a rocky marriage to begin, died over a decade ago — and it’s easy to see how she could fall for Chris’ charm. However, it’s absolutely absurd that she doesn’t seem to understand or care about Zara’s concerns and discomfort in the slightest. It’s not that she should automatically dump him because Zara doesn’t approve, but geez, it would be nice if she took more than five seconds to actually hear her daughter out. 

    Later, things take a turn for the worse when Zara discovers the signature pair of diamond earrings in Chris’ car. Fearing he’s about to break her mom’s heart, she confronts him in front of Brooke. Instead of realizing Chris has sucked this entire time, however, Brooke proceeds to be mad at… Zara?! “Maybe I don’t know you,” Brooke dramatically tells her daughter. 

    What — and we cannot express this enough — the hell? Sure, Zara could have been a little more tactful and considerate of her mother’s feelings here, but why is she the bad guy in this scenario? 

    A Family Affair keeps trying to convince us that Zara sucks, when really, it’s everyone around her that’s insufferable. Sure, she can be kind of dramatic and whiny at times, but isn’t every 24-year-old? Despite her faults, it’s obvious that she has a good heart and only wants the best for her mom. 

    Of course, it’s still up to Zara to fix everyone else’s messes. “I’m the worst. There’s literally no redeeming qualities!” she declares. She talks things out with Chris, who predictably admits that he was only considering breaking up with Brooke because he was “scared.” She eventually gets him and Brooke back together, and they reunite by making out in the produce section of the grocery store (yes, seriously). 

    In the end, everyone gets to live happily ever after, despite treating Zara horribly over the last hour, 53 minutes, and 33 seconds (not that we’re counting or anything). While A Family Affair is entertaining in a guilty-pleasure way, all of these characters need to write Zara handwritten apology notes, stat. To quote Logan Roy, these are not serious people.

    A Family Affair is streaming on Netflix.

    Kelly Martinez is a TV Reporter based in Los Angeles. Her previous work can be found at BuzzFeed and People Magazine, among other outlets. She enjoys reading, spending time with her cat, and explaining the plot of Riverdale to people.

    TOPICS: Joey King, Netflix, A Family Affair, Kathy Bates, Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Romantic Comedies