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Object of My Affection

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Object of My Affection

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Rated: R
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: April 1998
Genres: Comedy, Gay/Lesbian, Romance


*Also starring: Alan Alda, Nigel Hawthorne, John Pankow, Tim Daly, Allison Janney, Steve Zahn, Amo Gulinello, Bruce Altman



Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

At a wedding reception toward the end of "The Object of My Affection," George Hanson introduces his pregnant roommate Nina Borowski as his friend. Assuming that Nina must be George's wife, one woman at a table remarks, "I cannot imagine my husband calling me his friend." This light, sappy, and hardly believable comedy centers on an issue that probably passes for philosophic discussion in many a college dorm. Can a man and a woman live together, enjoying an intimate and fulfilling relationship, without sex? The answer to this enigma becomes clear enough by the story's conclusion, and though the difficulties faced by most of the principal characters are resolved, the resolution is a bittersweet one.

Though "The Object of My Affection" is diverting, it's difficult to believe that heavy hitters like Wendy Wasserstein, Nicholas Hytner, and Nigel Hawthorne are major contributors to the picture. Hytner did, after all, make his motion picture debut with a stunning transposition to the screen of the play "The Madness of George III" with Nigel Hawthorne in the title role of a loony British monarch. Wasserstein, a feminist with such sophisticated scripts as "The Heidi Chronicles" to her playwriting credit, must have stuck too closely to the novel by Stephen McCauley. And Hawthorne is just one of the world's great actors, who at least brings his considerable thespian qualities to a bland movie, and in a relatively small role easily overshadows his fellow performers.

The story is about several couples whose attachments are unrequited. As Hawthorne states in the role of a drama professor, what happens when the object of your affection does not return the affection to the degree which you expect? Vince McBride (John Pankow) is in love with Nina Borowski (Jennifer Aniston), who feels that something does not quite click in their relationship. Nina, in turn, is in love with George Hanson (Paul Rudd), who is gay and, try though he may, is not able to fulfill all of Nina's needs. George is in love with Dr. Robert Joley (Tim Daly), a literature instructor who has found someone else. Rodney Fraser (Nigel Hawthorne) has a relationship with a much younger man, a student named Paul (Amo Gulinello), whose eyes wander toward someone more his age. George's brother Frank (Steve Zahn) is about to get married, but then, he has had seven fiances, and who knows whether his alliance will work out? Relationships are tough: they require a healthy combination of sexual attraction and intellectual compatability which is so difficult to attain that stage, screen and the printed page continue to be filled with tales of heartache.

Most of the action takes place in Brooklyn, where Nina earns her living as a counselor in a center for teens and lives in a second-floor walkup while her more earthy sister, Constance (Allison Janney) lives the high life with her successful book-agent husband, Sidney (Alan Alda). When things fall apart between Nina and her boyfriend, she invites George to share her flat, which he accepts since he has just been tossed out of his quarters by his own boyfriend. Much of the movie centers on whether George and Nina, who have incompatible sexual temperaments but who are on the same wave intellectually and socially, can make a go of things. Since life is anything but tidy, George and Nina become caught up in a game of sexual politics that turns their otherwise accomplished lives inside out.

Jennifer Aniston, known to TV fans for her role in the ensemble comedy "Friends" and to movie enthusiasts for her starring part in "Picture Perfect" turns in her most accomplished performance here. She shows a capacity for growth and for portraying three-dimensional characters confronted by a host of conflicting emotions, but this time around she is stuck with a script which is overly sentimental and unimaginable. Paired off with John Pankow, who seems to come from another movie and shares no chemistry with Ms. Aniston's character, she is unable to materialize sufficiently as an actress and not just someone who is quite pleasant to look at. Nigel Hawthorne is himself enough reason to see this or any other work he's in. Here he acts as the aging homosexual who brings the film's only sobering advice, when he counsels Nina to discontinue her alliance with a handsome and thoroughly nice young man who can never give her what she so desperately needs. Paul Rudd looks good but is too nice to bring a needed edge to the story. The film suffers from choppy, overly zealous editing, leading to a seemingly unending variety of scenes.

"The Object of My Affection" plays on gay-straight stereotypes that are all too familiar to us, offering little that's new or particularly surprising.

Copyright 1998 Harvey Karten

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