Sometimes the most desirable relationship is the one you can’t have
Take the director of a couple acclaimed period movies. Throw in a few actors known best for their television work, and have all of them work on a movie with a screenplay by a freshman writer, and what do you get? The Object of My Affection, or, as I’ve always wanted to call it, “The Object of My Affliction.”
Nina (Jennifer Aniston) and George (Paul Rudd) meet at a dinner party. She’s a social worker, he’s a schoolteacher. They hit it right off…not that they’re going to be a couple, because she’s in a relationship, and he’s gay. Oh, so they’d make perfect roommates, right? Right! That’s what happens when George’s self-absorbed boyfriend Robert (Tim Daly) tosses him out. Nina and George spend all kinds of time together, going to dance lessons, going to Coney Island (oh, they live in New York City, by the way), and whiling away their nights lounging in her bed eating Häagen-Dazs and watching chick flicks. And strangely, Nina’s boyfriend Vince (John Pankow) isn’t threatened by this. Everything is peachy keen. That is, until Nina learns she’s pregnant. Nina doesn’t want to raise her child with Vince because she doesn’t feel like he’s “home.” Instead, she wants to raise it with George, who she feels very close to. George doesn’t want to be tied down, especially in what feels like a traditional marriage. Whatever will they do?
Last time I checked, I wasn’t a woman. The Object of My Affection is a chick flick. Ergo, I’m not likely its target demographic. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t care for it, right? After all, I’ve liked a few chick flicks in the past. I gave a positive review to Someone Like You, and I don’t go running from the room when my wife watches Sliding Doors the way she does when I watch, say, Conan the Barbarian. I did the happy dance when I heard Say Anything… will finally be released on DVD. Like Sylvester Stallone flicks, my enjoyment really depends on the movie. The Object of My Affection just didn’t cut it for me.
Hollywood was certainly “coming out” in the mid-1990s. Homosexuality was finally coming out of the closet and into mainstream entertainment. Movies like The Birdcage and In and Out made it funny and accessible. Ellen DeGeneres made it an issue. But, more germane to this film, I blame My Best Friend’s Wedding for making “devastatingly handsome” gay men the friend du jour for leading ladies. At its worst, this brought Madonna’s The Next Best Thing. At its best (sort of) it brought the sitcom Will and Grace. Somewhere in between it brought The Object of My Affection.
I find it difficult to express exactly how I felt about The Object of My Affection. I didn’t hate it, and I did find some things to like, but I didn’t like the whole package. The two leads, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, were very appealing. Seeing Aniston as someone other than Rachel Green on Friends gave me hope that maybe Rock Star was a fluke and she will have a career in films after that show ends. I’ve seen Paul Rudd in a film or two, though I keep confusing him with D.B. Sweeney, thinking that he was in The Cutting Edge. I rather liked him as Alicia Silverstone’s older sorta-brother in Clueless (one of my little guilty pleasure movies). As their ex-boyfriends, I wish I could say John Pankow and Tim Daly performed as admirably. Most people will likely remember Pankow as Ira on Mad About You, and if you saw him on that show, that appears to be the extent of his characterization abilities. Tim Daly (say, did you know that he did the voice of Superman for most of his recent animated adventures?) was on the sitcom Wings for many years, and at least he plays a different character, but on the other hand he’s also incredibly dry and unlikable. I think maybe that was the point, but still…
That’s pretty much the only pluses, wrapped up neatly in the actors. Everything else falls into the negative bin. The story rang true — how many unusual relationship arrangements end positively? — but at the same time it was hopelessly contrived and needlessly dry. It wandered from place to place, advancing toward its inevitable conclusion with all the drive, conviction, and enthusiasm that I possess when I “help” my wife go shoe shopping. It did not help that director Nicholas Hytner, the man behind The Madness of King George and The Crucible, films this modern tale as if it were a deliberate period piece, which explains its methodical, plodding pace. Perhaps I’m getting more hyperactive and attention deficit as I grow older, but its 111 minutes left me antsy to move along to something with more verve.
As usual, Fox does an exemplary job of bringing a catalog title to DVD. The Object of My Affection is presented in a beautiful 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Flesh tones are accurate and natural, the New York skyline is a perfect shade of blue, and everything else looks just how it should. I noticed no edge enhancement or pixelization, and source defects were kept to a bare minimum. I should note, though, that the layer switch is handled rather inelegantly. Audio is available in English in 5.1 and 2.0 surround, and in French in 2.0 surround. It’s a very forward-centric track — no explosions or gunfire (darn it) that need directional effects — but dialogue is clear and the music is mixed unobtrusively.
Can I just take a second here to pat Fox on the back? We’re talking about a DVD release of a catalog title, one that grossed just shy of $30 million at the box office. It’s a budget release, retailing for $19.98. It’s a chick flick that your average home theater nerd isn’t going to bother with. And yet, it has excellent video and good audio. It has an average video bitrate of 7.63 Mb/sec, and uses 90% of the available storage of the dual-layered DVD. Oh, and it even has an extra or two (I’ll get to those in a moment). It makes you wonder how certain other studios can crow about their prestigious line of premium DVDs, when the technical specs are only on par with what Fox does for their budget discs.
Extras aren’t plentiful, nor are they particularly impressive. You get a theatrical trailer of average quality, a featurette (a scant minute longer than the trailer, and containing very nearly the same material), a couple TV spots, and a quartet of “Fox Flix” promotional trailers. The trailers consist of: Picture Perfect, The Brothers McMullen, Simply Irresistible, and Drive Me Crazy. The logic of this lineup escapes me. Picture Perfect is a no-brainer — it’s Jennifer Aniston’s other stab at romantic comedy headlining. I can see where they were going with The Brothers McMullen — someone in the marketing department remembered that Jennifer Aniston was in a movie directed by Edward Burns. Only problem is, they picked the wrong one; she was in She’s The One, not The Brothers McMullen. Simply Irresistible and Drive Me Crazy are just other examples of romantic fluffery, though the trailer for Simply Irresistible reminds me that Sarah Michelle Gellar will never escape from being identified with Buffy Summers, and Drive Me Crazy reminds me that Melissa Joan Hart will never escape from being identified with Sabrina the Teenaged Witch. Give it up already.
This review may just be my Y chromosome talking. If you’re a lady, you might enjoy it. If you’re a guy, maybe the lady in your life will give Conan a try if you watch The Object of My Affection with her. I’m guessing she’ll say she will and then change her mind, but it might be worth a shot.
If you think The Object of My Affection might be your cup of tea (and if it is, you likely are the sort of person who drinks tea at tea parties on a regular basis), its technical merits make it a worthy addition to your collection.