THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION (1998) ** 1/2
The object of my affection
can change my complexion
from white to rosy red
Anytime she holds my hand,
tells me that she's mine
There are many girls who can thrill me
and some who can fill me
with dreams of happiness
But I know I'll never rest
until she says she's mine ...........................
The title "The Object Of My Affection," is familiar to connoisseurs of old pop music, from the eponymous song of long ago. The movie's sound-track, pleasant and mercifully not as busy as most, includes a few nice oldies, notably the 1929 "You Were Meant for Me," performed twice, by Sting and by Gene Kelly. But surprise! "The Object..." is, sadly, nowhere to be heard.
A good semi-surprise is that the film's several gay men are portrayed in anti-"La Cage aux Folles"ways. The gays are treated in a straight fashion: no special traits, intonations, mannerisms, flamboyance, queenly demeanor and the like. Just people. In fact, ordinary beings. But then, ordinary people can often be uninteresting too, and that's the main rub in this movie.
George, a New Yorker like most others in the cast, teaches first grade in a posh, private school. He gets dumped by college professor and would-be writer Robert Joley, his companion for four years. Helpfully, Nina, who counsels teen-age girls, places at George's disposal a room in her apartment. The two become fast friends, "fast" meaning both quickly and strongly.
Nina's boyfriend Vince, a civil rights lawyer and occasionally her colleague, seems to be a decent fellow, but eventually the couple comes to a parting of the ways, somehow catalyzed unwillingly by George's presence and Nina's ever-growing affection for him, an acute state of mutual loving friendship. This almost climaxes when Nina starts initiating sexual relations. Perhaps, at this point, the story could become "A Bisexual is Born," (or reborn) but the odd couple is saved by the bell, that of a ringing telephone.
When Nina finds out that she pregnant by Vince, she decides to raise the child with George. It looks like a good plan, until George, after a long period of uninvolvement with other men, meets Paul, an actor who lives with much older Rodney, a Brit in New York .
Rodney gets rather little screen time, but Nigel Hawthorne plays him beautifully: as a theater critic with a bite, and as an aging man who loses his lover. He does it with admirable economy, wit, wisdom, contained fatalism and pathos. After the movie is forgotten, Hawthorne will not be. The actor is reunited here with director Nicholas Hytner, the British stage person whose film debut was "The Madness of King George."
The other supporting roles, all very peripheral, range from tiny to sub-sketchy, with semi-caricatures reserved for such as senior citizens taking ballroom dancing lessons, and especially for a funny Alan Alda ("the most powerful literary agent in the world") and his current wife. She is also Nina's older stepsister and self-appointed matchmaker. Recurring bits of a daft older lady on the ground floor of Nina's building are blatant padding.
The main performances (Nina's and George's appealing duo; Vince's uncertainly written part) are pretty good, but missing in strong personalities. There's a lack of energy all over, in characters and filmic rhythm, in spite of some lively or colorful scenes. The film is slow. Not that it drags, bores, or requires suspension of disbelief. Yet its approach is scattershot as it touches on comedy, romance and downplayed drama, without getting any strong mileage out of any of those.
A paradoxical curiosity. Those who know about the prudishness of the old Hollywood Code are aware of how far movie frankness has come. In an early scene, counselor Nina is discussing boys with her girls. Says one about a new male acquaintance: "What he wants is to [verb deleted] me." Nina's calm response: "The point is, do you want to [verb deleted] him?" It is odd how, within in a film where the openly sexual premises are not a bit scabrous in 1998, this dialogue jars.
On the whole, "The Object of My Affection" is the object of your attention. It holds it, but not your rapt attention. The viewer remains distanced and uninvolved. To put it simply, the movie just does not excite. But it does make for an agreeable, entertaining 110 minutes.