The Object of My Affection - * *

What do you expect when the most romantic film relationship in 1997 was between the straight Julia Roberts and the gay Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding? The answer: The Object of My Affection, a romantic drama that tries to show what happens when a straight woman and a gay man become more than friends…

Jennifer Aniston stars as Nina Borowski, a social worker in a local community center. Her stepsister, Constance (Allison Janney), married to a rich literary agent, Sidney Miller (Alan Alda), disapproves of Nina’s life and her lawyer boyfriend, Vince (John Pankow).

Enter George Hanson (Paul Rudd), the first grade teacher of Constance and Sidney’s little girl. He has just broken up with his lover, Dr. Robert Joley (Timothy Daly), and needs a place to stay. Nina thinks he would make a perfect apartment-mate…and sooner than you think, the two are best of friends, even taking ballroom dancing lessons at the local community center.

Needless to say, this unique arrangement doesn’t sit well with Vince or Constance. And things only get worse when Nina starts falling in love with George…a love he can’t return.

The Object of My Affection straddles the gap between romantic comedy and romantic drama. Its non-traditional romance ends up being more cute than funny, and the dramatic weight of the situation is undercut by one too many romantic clichés.

The gay/straight romantic relationship was handled with much more success in last year’s superior Chasing Amy. This may be a more serious look at such a relationship, but it lacks any depth, due in large part to its stereotypical characters.

At the film’s center, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd make a cute couple, but they’re not much more than that. Aniston is much more sympathetic than she was in Picture Perfect, yet she doesn’t quite seem up to the dramatic challenges present in this role. Paul Rudd weathers the film better, but is shackled by his bland, unimaginative character.

There are plenty of supporting roles in the film (perhaps a few too many). Most notable are Steve Zahn, as George’s womanizing brother, Kevin Carroll as a kindly, but befuddled, cop, and Nigel Hawthorne, delivering a tragically good performance as an elderly gay theater critic who must cope with an unfaithful young lover.

The film covers quite a bit of territory, and at two hours in length, it feels every bit like it. We’re rushed through the introductory scenes just to get to…nowhere. The middle third of the movie drags on and on, but, thankfully, the film’s delightful coda peps things up a bit.

The Object of My Affection does have its moments, but they are few and far between. Most of the time, the film simply drags along, searching for meaning, but not finding any.

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