Friday, May 9
Writing, directing, editing and starring in her first feature, Helen Lesnick
makes a strong case for delegating responsibility with "A Family Affair", a forced romantic comedy about a Jewish lesbian who's torn between two lovers.
Unlike the title character in last year's "Kissing Jessica Stein", Lesnick's Rachel Rosen isn't at all conflicted about her sexual identity -- she knows exactly what she's searching for, and it's her "Ms. Rightowitz".
But also unlike the charming "Kissing", the Lesnick variation suffers from inexperienced filmmaking and a self-absorbed lead character who fails to elicit any truly tangible degree of audience sympathy.
While Lesnick's ambition is admirable, the end result will fail to cater to viewers beyond the big-city gay and lesbian milieu.
Fleeing New York after a traumatic breakup with her last girlfriend, Lesnick's wise-cracking Rachel takes refuge at the San Diego home of her parents, the tireless, smothering Leah (Arlene Golonka
) and her supportive hubby, Sam (Michael Moerman), a man of very, very few words.
With Mom keeping busy with various PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) activities, Rachel bides her time going on a dispiriting series of blind dates -- until one fateful evening when she hooks up with Christine (Erica Shaffer
), a sweet massage therapist.
The two initially hit it off, with the smitten Christine even going as far as taking conversion classes to become a perfect Jewish wife, but mopey Rachel is dragging her feet. It seems she still carries a torch for her ex, Reggie (Michele Greene
), who has popped up in California and is determined to win Rachel back.
It might have been easier to overlook Lesnick's awkwardly staged scenes if she had been able to make the self-centered Rachel a little more likable. As it stands, it's hard to see why the adoring Christine would be attracted to her in the first place, unless it was that caustic wit that the other characters keep mentioning.
On the performance front -- with the film's budget-conscious mix of professional, amateur and nonactors -- there's a whole lot of mugging going on, with the notable exceptions of Shaffer and Greene, who broke some TV ground back in 1991 with a same-sex kiss (with Amanda Donohoe
) on "L.A. Law".
As the unstoppable Reggie, Greene is a bright burst of energy in this otherwise labored "Affair".
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Small Planet Pictures
Director-screenwriter: Helen Lesnick
Producer: Valerie Pichney
Executive producers: Helen Lesnick
, Dolores Lesnick
Director of photography: Jim Orr
Production and costume designer: Lorrie Blackard
Editor: Helen Lesnick
Music: Natashais Ghost
Rachel Rosen: Helen Lesnick
Christine Peterson: Erica Shaffer
Leah Rosen: Arlene Golonka
Sylvia Peterson: Barbara Stuart
Reggie Abravanel: Michele Greene
Carol Rosen: Suzanne Westenhoefer
Sam Rosen: Michael Moerman
Running time -- 100 minutes
No MPAA rating