Friday, May 6, 2011

The Object of My Affection Movie Review

First published in The Connecticut College Voice on 24 April 1998.
Republished here with some editorial adjustments that don't affect content.

One’s first thoughts on a movie about a girl who falls in love with a gay man might be, “Another bland romantic comedy,” or “A trite revision of Chasing Amy.” Coming from a person who hasn’t seen a decent new movie in about a month, The Object of My Affection was a pleasant surprise.

The movie centers on Nina (Jennifer Aniston), a social worker in Brooklyn, and George (Paul Rudd), a 1st grade school teacher. They meet at a cocktail party being held by Nina’s stepsister. George and Nina immediately form a bond laughing at the rest of the guests who engage in name dropping as if it were a competition. In a somewhat unbelievably fast pace, Nina invites George to be her new roommate and they very quickly discover they are nearly soul mates for each other. All gets complicated when Nina finds out she is pregnant by her boyfriend Vince (John Pankow). She asks George to be the live-in dad as opposed to Vince. This is when the true grit of the movie comes out: the exploration into relationships. Can it survive without sex? Is a wonderful friendship enough to make it last?

Director Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George and The Crucible) has established himself a master at placing stage plays on the screen. He does a wonderful job of presenting the characters to us. Wendy Wasserstein’s cleverly witty adaptation of Stephen McCauley’s novel keeps the perfect balance between laughter and sadness. While their relationship develops too quickly, it’s made up for elsewhere. One thing I can’t get my head around is why Nina ever made it past the second date with Vince, an insufferable ass who puts everyone down. He’s not that bad, but he’s not all that great either. It’s obvious the only reason he doesn’t mind George being Nina’s roommate is because he’s gay. If nothing else, this film is a milestone in its portrayal of gay relationships. It does it better than most films portray heterosexual relationships. George’s breakup with his lover (Tim Daly) in the beginning of the film is done without stereotype as is his development of a relationship with a young actor. Both are done with a subtlety and finesse rarely seen in movies.

Paul Rudd also must be commended for playing George without stereotyping the character. Aniston proves once and for all she can move beyond television. She is her perky self at times, but she manages to get the down emotions of the character perfected. They each have created characters that we can care about. Also notable are performances by Alan Alda as Nina’s stepbrother-in-law and Nigel Hawthorne as an older theater critic who loses his young lover to George. Hawthorne delivers a poignant monologue which applies to both himself and Nina, “I don’t think one should be too hard on oneself if the object of one’s affection returns the favor with less enthusiasm than one might have hoped.”

Although the ending may be rife with drippy sentimentality, it does supply us with a believable conclusion. It wraps everything up and you won’t leave the theater feeling like they’ve kept anything from you.

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