The Object of My Affection
is the name of a 1987 novel by Stephen McCauley and its 1998 film adaptation. The film was a Romantic Comedy
, exploring the concept of Incompatible Orientation
. It was directed by Nicholas Hytner
, previously known for film adaptations of The Madness Of King George
(1994) and The Crucible
(1996). The main stars were Jennifer Aniston
and Paul Rudd
The film starts by introducing its main characters and their respective occupations. George Hanson (Rudd) is a first grade teacher at a private school. He is supposed to be teaching kids the basics of art and science. He is better known for his musical adaptations of various works. He is also openly gay, currently in a relationship with Dr. Robert Joley (Tim Daly). Joley is a medical professor and biographer of George Bernard Shaw
. Nina Borowski (Aniston) is a social worker, currently employed as a teen councilor in a community center. She is seen giving advise to teenage girls about their sexual lives. Mostly: "If I had sex with a guy, I'd want him to be my friend." She is in a relationship with Vince McBride, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society (the largest not-for-profit legal services organization of the United States) and a rather overbearing individual.
George and Nina meet at a society party hosted by her stepsister Constance Miller (Allison Janney). Nina has been looking for a roommate. Joley apparently put on a good word for George, explaining that he would soon need a new apartment. George is shocked to only learn that from her. It is his lover's not so subtle way of telling him that he is kicking him out. Joley is leaving him for a younger man, one of his students. George does move in with Nina. They spent much of their free time together, even taking dancing lessons. Also talking about his personal history. In particular, how he used to date a girl in high school and only discovered his orientation when at college. Nina continues sleeping with Vince but is falling hard for George.
When Nina stays pregnant, her first thought is to turn to George and ask him to raise a kid together. He is tempted because it might be his only chance to keep her in his life for good and also become a father. But their only attempt to have sex with each other is interrupted by a phone call. George soon meets young actor Paul James (Amo Gulinello) and falls for him. Which obviously puts a strain on his relationship with Nina. The two have to sort out the mess before the birth of the baby.
The film was a modest box office hit. Its worldwide gross is estimated to 46,905,889 dollars, about three times its budget. About 29 million of these dollars came from the United States market, where it was the 67th most successful film of its year. It received mixed reviews. Roger Ebert
pointed that it dealt with serious issues and had some very effective scenes. But that it was overly reminiscent of a sitcom, while the best lines were delivered by Rodney Fraser (Nigel Hawthorne), a supporting character with little screen time. Ruthe Stein praised the honest portrayal of the relationships, the overal appeal of the main characters and the general avoidance of Camp Gay
elements. Other critics have both praised the film for its wit and criticized some of its unconvincing subplots.
This film provides examples of:
- All Gays Are Promiscuous: George seriously considers settling down with Nina, raising a kid. He even rejects the advances of Joley who wants to restart their relationship. Paul is the live-in partner of Rodney, even if they don't actually have sex. The two meet, fall for each other and have sex multiple time in record time. So much for commitment.
- All Gays Love Theater: George loves theatre and directs school plays. Dr. Robert Joley is a great fan of George Bernard Shaw and the plays. Paul is a theatrical actor. Rodney, a theatrical critic with a passion for William Shakespeare. All four are gay.
- Camp Gay: Averted. None of the gay characters are particularly effeminate.
- The Casanova: Dr. Frank Hanson (Steve Zahn) , George's younger brother, is seen with one gorgeous fiancée after another. With the implication that this is Frank's method of getting into their pants. Promising marriage but never going through with it. At some point, he is flirting with two women at the same time, just before introducing his newest fiancée. His reaction when he learns that the couple of Vince and Melissa Marx (Kali Rocha) broke up, is to ask whether Melissa is cute and available. With his current fiancée standing right next to him. One of the final scenes of the film features his wedding. Whether Frank is able to stay in a monogamous relationship is never adressed.
- Caustic Critic: Rodney is a professional critic and his style is overly insulting to various theatrical directors. At some point, Rodney is assaulted by an irrate director.
- Cure Your Gays: Played with. Constance summarises Nina's efforts as trying to bring George "to his senses".
- Fag Hag: Nina at first. Then she falls hard for her gay friend.
- Fair Cop: Louis Crowley. An African-American with model looks.
- The Ghost: Lucy Jane Parnell, George's first love, is frequently mentioned but never seen.
- Hey, It's That Gal! A very young Claire Bennet, an equally young Haley Dunphy, and a slightly older but still young Lucy Danziger all turn up here.
- Hospital Hottie: Frank Hanson is a hospital doctor and babe-magnet.
- Incompatible Orientation: A heterosexual woman falls for a homosexual man.
- Jerkass: Dr. Robert Joley comes off as extremely arrogant in his every scene. Then he effectively kicks out his lover and "best friend" to move on to a younger guy. When that relationship fails, Robert tries to get back with George. Expecting George to drop everything for him and even acting possessive. George has to ask: "How did we get back so quickly to the "honey" stage". It comes off as amusing when George drops him like a bad habit.
- Lover and Beloved: Rodney and Paul. But it is supposed to be Platonic Love only.
- Love Triangle: At first, Nina sleeps with Vince while actually loving George. With Vince increasingly jealous of his "rival". Then Vince and George have a fight over Nina and who gets to be her partner in parenting. Later, we have George simultaneously involved with Nina and Paul. Paul himself has a Platonic relationship with his aging mentor Rodney Fraser and a sexual one with George. A secondary love triangle forms between George, Nina and Louis Crowley (Kevin Carroll), a cop who falls for her.
- May-December Romance: Nigel Hawthorne who plays Rodney was 69-years-old. His love interest is played by Amo Gulinello, who was in his 20s or early 30s.
- No Bisexuals: George admits to having sex with his girlfriend at the high school prom, is somewhat turned on by Nina (while in bed with her), and almost has sex with her. Somehow the possibility of George having bisexual tendencies is never discussed. Nor the word "bisexual" ever mentioned.
- Nobody over 50 Is Gay: Averted. Rodney is older and still gay. Though it is never explained if his current celibacy is a personal choice or a physiological problem.
- Settled for Gay: While Nina would like to have sex with George, she wants to settle down with him even if sex is not an option. He is the love of her life.
- Straight Gay: No particular effeminate mannerisms from the gay characters. Though it doesn't prevent them from discussing their sexuality.
- Trailers Always Lie: The TV trailer makes the film look like a run-of-the-mill Tastes Like Diabetes romance between George and Nina.