An unholy genre mutation undreamt of on the isle of Dr. Moreau, An American Affair piggybacks the pubescent sexual awakening sapfest onto the JFK assassination conspiracy thriller. Forty-six years after Dallas, it’s an idea whose time will never come. Self-absorbed Washington, D.C. student Adam (Cameron Bright), whose name passes for a subtle touch here, is a 13-year-old asshole to friends he manipulates into fistfights and the girl he goes too far with in a spin-the-bottle pairing. (The ornery, unforgiving milieu of his ‘63 Catholic education at least outdoes Doubt in verisimilitude.) Salvation arrives at Adam’s neighboring window in the form of undraped bombshell Catherine Caswell (Gretchen Mol), an abstract painter (“Form is dead,” she solemnly instructs the kid on the aesthetics of landscaping her Edenic garden), consumer of LSD cubes, and not-so-secret paramour to President Kennedy. This wet-dream blonde, who Adam’s journalist parents skittishly abhor while permitting him to become her handyboy, isn’t spied on only by her callow worshipper; her drunken ex-hubby (Mark Pellegrino) is a jealous C.I.A. man, and his omnipotent chief (James Rebhorn, an unintended stroke of joke casting) is pressuring her for info on behalf of Cuban exiles pissed at Catherine’s “Jack” over the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
But there’s not much time to spend on the sub-sub-Oliver Stone convolutions, because director William Sten Olsson has to lurch back to scenes of horny nostalgia, like the woman and boy having a giggly paint fight in her studio to Skeeter Davis’s hit ballad “End of the World.” Even when Alex Metcalf’s demented script has the First Mistress’s deadly diary falling into Adam’s sweaty hands, young Bright is unsentimental as the smitten creep, and Mol astonishingly maintains some dignity even while huffing, “It’s all a big chess game, isn’t it?” But between its craven use of overly familiar archival footage and Adam’s desperate stab at providing comfort sex on November 22, you’re dreadfully certain of where An American Affair is going, and then the destination proves much, much worse. With its final shred of credibility lying mangled at the bottom of the Georgetown “Exorcist steps” along with one of the principals, this early favorite for the most ludicrous film of 2009 requires a new Warren Commission to probe the plot to shoot its screenplay.