Apr 24, 2015

Review: The Object of My Affection (1998)

Whether you like her or not, Jennifer Aniston was huge in the late 1990's and still is to a certain extent even today. Riding the tidal wave of Friends will do that for you. No doubt that Aniston was the most successful at carving out a film career compared to her other Friends co-stars. What's funny is that her TOoMA co-star Paul Rudd also found himself on Friends in a run from 2002-2004 for a total of 19 episodes. That's a nice little small screen reunion if I ever saw one, although I don't think they shared much screen-time together from what I understand.

Based on Stephen McCauley's book of the same name, The Object of My Affection goes into some pretty bold territory. Or at least what I think was probably pretty bold for North American audiences at the time. This is pre-Brokeback Mountain after all. The story of TOoMA can be boiled down to a woman falling in love with a gay roommate which results in all sorts of complications as I'm sure you can imagine.


At a Glance

Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Nicholas Hytner
Produced by: Laurence Mark, Diana Pokorny, Petra Alexandria
Written by: Wendy Wasserstein
Music by: George Fenton
Running time: 111 minutes
Production company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox, Filmes Castello Lopes, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $15,000,000
Box office: $46,905,889 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, John Pankow, Allison Janney, Alan Alda, Tim Daly, Joan Copeland, Steve Zahn, Amo Gulinello, Nigel Hawthorne, Kali Rocha, Gabriel Macht, Sarah Hyland, Hayden Panettiere, Liam Aiken, Bruce Altman, Daniel Cosgrove, Samia Shoaib



Nina Borowski (Jennifer Aniston) works as a social worker and is stuck with an overbearing boyfriend in Vince McBride (John Pankow). Invited to a party by her rich stepsister Constance (Allison Janney), she meets gay first-grade teacher George Hanson (Paul Rudd) who goes through a sudden and painful breakup with his boyfriend Robert Joley (Tim Daly). Luckily having an available room in her apartment, she invites him to stay there until he gets on his feet.


The Object of My Affection begins by introducing its two characters in what is a pretty satisfying way. Nina is clearly independent and strong-willed (good qualities for a social worker) and George is nice, sweet and good with kids. It's nice having a positive and strong female main character and I'll admit that I was pretty surprised at how good Paul Rudd works as a gay character. Screenwriter Wendy Wasserstein also stays away from any gay stereotypes which is another big plus.

Once George moves in with Nina, they quickly become best friends. Maybe a little too quickly. I mean how many male/female friends do you know go to dancing lessons together? The other characters balk at how bizarre the situation is and I suppose it's pretty easy to understand them. TOoMA is all about non-traditional relationships though and I do honestly think that there are some relatively intelligent elements in the story that address that and make it believable.

Take George's brother Frank (Steve Zahn) who's a doctor. He's a regular playboy who's been engaged way too many times and has some pretty dumb ideas about how relationships work. He's clearly a negative example of "traditional" relationships, although it's a bit of an easy way to make a statement. Even Nina's stepsister Constance and her husband (Alan Alda) are a negative example since their relationship has pretty much stagnated after all their years of marriage. All that makes what develops between Nina and George almost OK.

What I mean is that when Nina finds out that she's pregnant with Vince's baby, she shockingly decides that she wants to raise this baby with George. Yes it's weird, but like I said before, I think that director Nicholas Hytner has made it somewhat of a believable solution in how he presents the facts. Where I do have a major problem is in the destruction of Jennifer Aniston's character. 

To keep things short, George and Nina's weird, Frankenstein setup is something of an open relationship with parental obligations. Despite Nina saying that George is free to have men over, she turns into an extremely moody and needy character which isn't at all what she was like before. What happened to independence and being self-sufficient? Although I can understand Nina being upset with what George does, her reactions don't gel with how her character was before and it's disappointing to see that.

Besides a few other scenes that lack in emotional punch despite really trying and a few flubbed comedic moments, The Object of My Affection is a better movie that I was expecting. No offense to Aniston or Rudd, but I was expecting this to be a fluff romantic/comedy. It isn't and it benefits from two surprisingly realistic characters. The film disappointingly collapses under its own weight in the end though, making The Object of My Affection a mixed bag. 



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