Two New York Cities exist in The Object of My Affection. One is an affluent city of power, a place where prominent tastemakers such as Sidney and Constance Miller (Alan Alda and Allison Janney) throw celebrity-studded dinner parties in massive Park Avenue apartments, then retreat to the casual luxury of the Hamptons to unwind.
The other is a liberal dream of a tolerant melting pot, where doing good work takes precedence over making money. It's inhabited by Nina Borowski (Jennifer Aniston), a social worker who lives in a small, shabby-chic Brooklyn walk-up, and George Hanson (Paul Rudd), a teacher at a progressive private elementary school.
Director Nicholas Hynter (The Madness of King George) and playwright-screenwriter Wendy Wasserstein (The Heidi Chronicles), who adapted Stephen McCauley's novel, find much of their humor in the clash of these two New Yorks. But their main concern in the sunny but emotionally complex The Object of My Affection is trying to pinpoint the elusive nature of love.
When Nina and George meet at one of the Millers' parties, they're drawn to each other as outsiders, then become roommates after George's fatuous boyfriend, Joley (Tim Daly), uses the occasion to dump him.
The arrangement is temporary, Nina assures her wary boyfriend, Vince (John Pankow), a civil liberties lawyer. But the relationship between Nina and George soon grows into a strong bond: They have achieved the intimacy, trust and companionship of lovers without the whole messy sex part.
When a pregnant Nina decides to raise her child with George instead of the biological father Vince, she's envisioning an emotional utopia. But Hynter and Wasserstein know that even in an enlightened wonderland, new social rules don't always mesh with the idiosyncratic individuals who trumpet them.
Aniston (miles away from "Friends") creates a surprisingly strong and resourceful Nina, while Rudd's compassionate George caters to the needs of others while still understanding the importance of his own desires.
The Object of My Affection isn't simply about unrequited love, but shows how even the most self-aware can still be seduced by their own mythology.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].