The Object of My Affection (1998)

[5.0]

A New York city social worker becomes pregnant and decides she’d rather raise the baby with her gay best friend than with the baby’s father. But when their romantic desires begin to undercut their family goals, frustration gets the better of both of them.

I almost like The Object of My Affection. Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd star in it, and they are both super-charming and competent actors. And I like the interesting premise of a straight woman and a gay man deciding to raise a child together and create their own kind of family. But I only want to see that story if the experiment works. The movie is fairly charming for about the first half of its run time, but once the characters realize they can’t fight against their primal instincts, it becomes a bit… well, punishing. The characters are created to be sweet, and they’re played by impossibly sweet actors, so to watch them both hurt each other (albeit unintentionally) just makes for a miserable time. The Object of My Affection is ultimately a downer that asserts our hormones will triumph over love and intellect.

But I did enjoy that first half fairly well. Aniston and Rudd give the material their best shots and show a lot of promise in breaking out of their comedy molds. Nigel Hawthorne (The Madness of King George) elevates the film as an older gay man who befriends Rudd and, in one of the film’s most moving moments, warns Aniston about winding up alone. John Pankow also has a meaty supporting role as the father of Aniston’s baby. A character like his could easily have been written off as a bad guy, but the script gives him enough complexity to make us empathetic toward him. Supporting players Alan Alda and Allison Janney are also put to good use. With Steve Zahn and Tim Daly.

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