An American Affair Hits Theaters in Limited Release

Just when you thought the JFK conspiracy film genre had been exhausted (where does one go after RUBY?) along comes AN AMERICAN AFFAIR starring Gretchen Mol as a “mysterious” murder victim and Kennedy mistress based on Mary Pinchot Meyer. Meyer, a bohemian Georgetown socialite and abstract painter, was killed on October 12, 1964 during one of her regular walks on the towpath of the C & O Canal along the Potomac River. Not surprisingly, even though her homicide is considered a closed case by the Washington, D.C. police (an African-American drifter named Raymond Crump, Jr. was charged with her murder, but later acquitted at trial), the conspiracy community finds the circumstances surrounding her death highly suspicious.

Meyer’s demise may or may not be “suspicious,” but in the universe of Kennedy conspiracy personalities, she is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating—and how could someone who may have dropped acid with JFK not be? She even rated her own biography from a respectable publisher (A Very Private Woman: The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer by Nina Burleigh, Bantam, 1999)—an honor David Ferrie and the Three Tramps have thus far failed to merit.

Unfortunately, AN AMERICAN AFFAIR, now in limited theatrical release, wastes the interesting premise of a teenage neighbor boy discovering the Meyer character’s (named Catherine Caswell) trysts with the President. It could have been REAR WINDOW meets THE PARALLAX VIEW meets WARGAMES. Instead it is a strange blend of HEAVEN HELP US, SUMMER OF ’42 and the most tired of conspiracy theories—the assassination is depicted as payback for Kennedy’s lack of support in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (according to IMdB, the working title of the movie was, we kid you not, BOY OF PIGS).

Director William Olsson spends most of the film’s 96-minute running time exploring the pervy relationship between Catholic schoolboy Adam (Cameron Bright) and the free spirited Meyer character. He and screenwriter Alex Metcalf do, though, manage to shoehorn a number of real life facts (or near facts) into this howler of a movie to keep it interesting for assassination obsessives. Indeed, Meyer’s LSD use is suggested when the camera pans over Catherine’s coffee table and sugar cubes and an eye dropper are visible (while sitar music plays, no less). The Catherine character is also depicted as being an abstract painter (she declares “form is dead” to the clueless Adam, so we know she is serious about her art).

Like the real Meyer, the Catherine character is presented as being divorced from a high ranking CIA official named Graham Caswell (the real life Meyer was divorced from a senior CIA official named Cord Meyer). And like the Meyers, the fictional Caswells know a legendary CIA spy catcher. The wonderful actor James Rebhorn slums it here playing the James Jesus Angelton inspired character with a Cheney-like malevolence. There are other factual parallels, too, but enough differences to discourage a lawsuit from the Meyer estate. The movie is so tacky, however, that the estate may want to sue anyway.

In summary, this movie is for anyone who ever wondered what Oliver Stone might do with a John Hughes script. Form is dead!

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