The Object Of My Affection

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At one point in The Object Of My Affection (1998) the Allison Janney character says “You know, I enjoy gay people”. This one line captures perfectly the attitudes of this misguided romantic comedy. Over the course of its runtime, The Object Of My Affection makes the case that gay men are just as “ordinary” as heterosexual men and women. The film voyeuristically peers into gay culture from the secluded and highly marketable summits of the heteronormative romantic comedy.

Every time the narrative of The Object Of My Affection takes a turn that threatens the white heteronormative status quo of the late nineties romantic comedy, the film bluntly course corrects. The plot about a pregnant woman named Nina (Jennifer Aniston) who falls in love with her gay best friend and roommate George (Paul Rudd) has every opportunity to actually be edgy and progressive. At the time that The Object Of My Affection was made the kind of family suggested in the film was nowhere near as common or as acceptable as it is today. But The Object Of My Affection can’t help but take one step back for every two steps forward.

There is a blatant homophobia to The Object Of My Affection. The “otherness” that is imbued into the gay characters by the screenwriting and dialogue keeps these characters at a distance like goldfish in a bowl. The film invites viewers to observe the exotic species of the gay male without having to really think about them in terms that are not dictated by leading lady Jennifer Aniston. The surprising thing is that the director of the film and the novelist who penned the inspiration for the film are both openly gay artists.

The issue is that The Object Of My Affection is a gay film that has been perverted by its means of production and ultimate purpose. The Object Of My Affection is a commercial Hollywood film trying to be a mainstream hit. In the late nineties much of the content in The Object Of My Affection was deemed box office poison or just too controversial. The resulting product of these contradictory circumstances is a homophobic gay romantic comedy about a straight woman starring a straight man as a gay man.

The Object Of My Affection, because of its internal conflict between art and commerce, is a rollercoaster ride of tonal whiplash and schizoid editing. A tender scene of friendship cuts to a moment of sexual tourism then cuts to a scene of broad bourgeois comedy that sees the social roles of the characters in a constant shuffle. The Object Of My Affection never moves towards any clear idea or concept for any of the characters beyond the premise established in the first fifteen minutes of the film.

Still, there are those rare moments when a scene feels right; feels authentic. A couple of those scenes are between the sisters Aniston and Janney, but most of them occur between Paul Rudd, Nigel Hawthorne, and Amo Gulinello. The low key melodramatic moments work a thousand times better than the comedic beats in The Object Of My Affection. The one exception being Bruce Altman who is hilarious as the doctor who is into leather.

Sadly, these few redemptive moments aren’t enough to salvage the whole of The Object Of My Affection. Granted, circumstances are largely responsible for the failures of the film but those are still failures. Good intentions and mediocre artistry just do not amount to worth while filmmaking.