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Few Objections to 'Affection'

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 17, 1998


The Object of My Affection
Jennifer Aniston falls in love with Paul Rudd in "The Object of My Affection." (20th Century Fox)

Nicholas Hynter
Jennifer Aniston;
Alan Alda;
Paul Rudd;
John Pankow;
Tim Daly;
Nigel Hawthorne;
Allison Janney;
Amo Gulinello
Running Time:
1 hour, 58 minutes
Sexual situations and profanity
"The Object of My Affection" is a marshmallow of a movie: pale, pillowy and just begging to be skewered and roasted.

Wendy Wasserstein brings a dull pen to this literary adaptation, which shows none of the bite or savvy of Stephen McCauley's novel. But she and director Nicholas Hytner ("The Madness of King George") seem to be under the impression that this pithless romantic comedy has something to say about the vast permutations of family, friendship and love.

"Friends" star Jennifer Aniston portrays a pregnant social worker who falls for her gay roommate (Paul Rudd) and asks him to help rear her child. Since he's always dreaming of becoming a father, he agrees.

It is the sort of story best left to the French, who take great delight in such trifles. They have the Gaul to treat them as farces and aren't in the least bit squeamish about sexual ambiguity, gender confusion, menages a trois, quatre, cinq or six.

Despite all its winking and flirting, the film is rather demure. It is, after all, aimed at the mainstream audiences who embraced gay characters in "My Best Friend's Wedding," "In & Out" and "The Birdcage." At one point, Aniston and Rudd are on the brink of unbuckling when they are saved by Ma Bell: A sexy-sounding guy (Amo Gulinello) is on the phone for him. It's a predictable turn of events, but it salvages the movie's remaining believability and the characters' credibility. Rudd doesn't turn into a happy hetero.

Aniston's dandruff fleck of a woman simply isn't man enough to satisfy his needs, but she continues to hope he'll convert till he finally brings his new beau home to meet the missus before slipping off to the bedroom. At long last, the bulb lights up, the synapses fire and the heroine grasps the obvious. And only minutes before it's time to start boiling the water.

Aniston, poor dear, doesn't even get to huff and scream her way through the delivery room. It's either been cut or it never was there, because next thing you know, the concerned parties are cooing over the wee newborn in the maternity ward. And there's still more oohing and ahhing and gitchy-gitchy-gooing to come.

Aniston and Rudd, both pleasant and glowing, are supported by John Pankow as the baby's obnoxious birth father, Tim Daly as Rudd's obnoxious ex, Nigel Hawthorne as a crabby theater critic, Allison Janney as Aniston's pushy stepsister and Alan Alda as Janney's husband.

As the movie's designated liberal spokesperson, Alda also points out that homosexuality "is a valid choice." No doubt millions of gay men and lesbians will be relieved to find this out. Alda's is the kind of line and "The Object of My Affection" is exactly the kind of movie "Seinfeld's" creators had in mind when they came up with the rejoinder, "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

If that's the case, why bother to say so in the first place?

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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