Rated R - Running time: 1:50 - Released 4/17/98

Adding The Object Of My Affection to a short list of excellent titles like The Crucible (1996) and The Madness Of King George (1994), director Nicholas Hytner continues to distinguish himself with this lighter yet well-felt romantic comedy. Though not the first in the "gay/straight love affair" genre (see Chasing Amy), this is perhaps the most sensitive and very likely the best-shot film on this subject. Jennifer Aniston (Friends) and Paul Rudd show their considerable acting talent, and the many difficult issues not immediately obvious to this type of scenario are delved into with sensitivity in Stephen McCauley's story, adapted for the screen by Wendy Wasserstein. The cinematography by Oliver Stapleton deserves recognition too, utilizing some interesting camera angles and lighting choices to great effect.

Aniston's character, Nina Borowski, is a New York social worker who teaches teenage girls how to deal with the pressures of living in our society. Little does she know how much pressure she's going to be under when she meets George Hanson (Rudd), a gay first-grade teacher. George and Nina hit it off, and though Nina isn't really interested in replacing her brash and somewhat offensive boyfriend, Vince McBride (John Pankow of Mad About You), she isn't really interested in marrying him, either. After George is dumped by his egotistical partner, Dr. Robert Joley (Timothy Daly), Nina offers to let him move into the spare room in her apartment. For fun, she signs the two of them up for ballroom dancing lessons. From this point, their platonic friendship grows into something special.

All is well until Nina gets pregnant and has to decide who (if anyone) she wants to help raise her child. Vince is the father, but she is becoming increasingly aware that he is not the life partner for her. George is the one she loves to spend time with, and he obviously returns the feeling, but there's no hope there for a romantic relationship. And if either one of them wants to ever have a love life, it will seriously infringe on the bond they have formed and the unborn child they both love.

This movie, as can be expected, is full of uncomfortable moments. Nina and George can deal with the incredulity of their families and friends, but when George meets Paul James (Amo Gulinello), he begins to long for something more than what he can get from Nina and her baby. But rather than try to smooth over these situations, director Hytner lets us experience them fully, as if to force the audience to understand the tensions caused by such a difficult relationship.

There is a lot of good acting here, especially between the two leads, and by Pankow, whose unabashed opinion turns darker as George becomes more important to Nina. The script is sensitive overall, showing some tender moments between lovers and friends, and the blurred distinction between those two types of relationships. Another beautiful performance is turned in by Nigel Hawthorne (who played King George under Hytner's direction) as the ascerbic but wistful theatre critic with whom Paul is involved.

This is a tale of difficult choices and wistful decisions, of trying to choose between two types of love when only one is possible. It is touching without being sappy, and beautifully photographed. An enjoyable, thoughtful story whose ending shows that when life is not perfect, you learn how to deal. ****

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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