The Object Of My Affection

on April 17, 1998 by Kristan Ginther
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   With attractive leads (Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd), a respected writer (Wendy Wasserstein), and an esteemed director (Nicholas Hytner), "The Object of My Affection" should have been memorable. Instead, the forgettable sum does not equal the formidable parts.
   Aniston portrays Nina Borowski, a social worker, who is not as happy as she appears. Her relationship with her boyfriend Vince (John Pankow) is going nowhere, and her family is driving her crazy. Enter George Hanson (Rudd), a grade school teacher. At a dinner party, George is unceremoniously dumped by his boyfriend. Nina is there to pick up the pieces and give George a place to live. Even though George is openly homosexual, it does not take long for Nina to fall in love with him. Break-ups, pregnancy, affairs, reconciliations, and a lot of faux angst ensue.
   What was conceived as a politically charged story instead comes off as a flaccid, dull, and completely obvious film. All of the major players share in the blame, but Wasserstein's rendering of the novel by Stephen McCauley falls especially flat. Most of her characters are so pure, there is no conflict created. She also appears to be following a politically correct handbook, trying hard to not offend anyone but inevitably boring everyone with cliches. The lackluster performance of Rudd and Aniston still seeming like a sitcom actress makes it is hard to care about what happens to them or their relationship.
   There are some humorous bits provided mostly by Alan Alda as Nina's brother-in-law. However, it is Nigel Hawthorne as Rodney, an aging homosexual theatre critic, who provides the film's only moments of real urgency. Hawthorne is especially effective during a Thanksgiving dinner scene when he finds out his young lover has found someone new. The poignancy flows from every line that Hawthorne utters, and for a moment it feels like this is another film. But it isn't long before The "Object of My Affection" resumes telling a story that no one really cares to watch or hear.    Starring Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Alan Alda and Nigel Hawthorne. Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Written by Wendy Wasserstein. Produced by Laurence Mark. A Fox release. Romantic comedy. Rated R for strong language and some sexuality. Running time: 122 min.
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