'Object' Mixes Fantasy, Romance

The Object of My Affection" is the latest in a recent line of movies featuring gay men tangled up with straight love affairs. Greg Kinnear earned an Oscar nomination for playing this role in "As Good as It Gets," and many felt Rupert Everett in "My Best Friend's Wedding" should have been similarly honored.

It's doubtful the new picture will make as strong an impression as its predecessors, since its story is more rambling and less amusing. But it boasts appealing performances, and it takes a reasonably tasteful approach to its subject, aside from a string of four-letter words that sound strangely out of place in this romantic comedy.

Jennifer Aniston, another veteran of the TV series "Friends" seeking a place on the wide screen, plays the likable heroine. Her name is Nina; she earns her living as a social worker, and she can't decide how committed she is to Vince, her well-meaning but overbearing lover.

Her life changes when a new roommate moves in: George, a gay teacher who expects to stay only a couple of weeks, becomes Nina's confidant. Their arrangement grows more challenging when Nina learns she's pregnant.

While the father is Vince, she decides to raise the baby without him, enlisting George as her partner. These two aren't really meant for each other, though, and various romantic complications arise.

Aniston is always enjoyable and sometimes touching as Nina, ably joined by Paul Rudd as George and John Pankow as Vince, plus a strong supporting cast including Nigel Hawthorne and Alan Alda.

Director Nicholas Hytner earns points for versatility since his previous pictures were "The Madness of King George" and "The Crucible." He keeps "Object" rolling smoothly, helped by Oliver Stapleton's silky camera work, which makes New York look more like a folksy village than a city bursting at the seams.

Like other aspects of the movie, this portrait of urban life doesn't ring particularly true; but if Hollywood fantasy is what you're after, Hytner's romance is as watchable as most others this season.

* Rated R; contains much vulgar language and sexual innuendo.

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