Last month's column was a shade on the controversial side, what with my denouncement of the gay community in general and various other sundry insults to "my people" This month, I decided to keep the topic tame, and mostly non-divisive. I watched just this afternoon a movie called "The Object of My Affection." If you haven't seen it, don't rush to the video store to get it, it's not really that good. However, there are some interesting things I noticed about it.
George is a gay man who teaches first grade at a private school in New York City and puts on amateur musical revues with his 6-year-old classes. Already, my disbelief antennae were making faint beeping noises. George is the current boytoy of Joely, who is a snobbish professor and, already in the first scenes of the movie, we can tell he's bad news because he didn't show up to see George's latest production (with the grade 1's). That night, coincidentally enough, George and Joely go to a party hosted by a publishing boss who is married to the stepsister of Nina, who Joely is seated next to at the dinner. Sometime during the meal, Joely tells Nina that George is moving out and might need someplace to live, can he live in her apartment?
The beeping grew louder at this point.
The fact that George is moving out is news to George, who later talks to Nina, and naturally is crushed by learning that Joely is going to drop him very soon. Tension builds on the horizon as we can feel the climactic moment approaching...Joely and George have a little tiff on the street, Joely is sleeping with one of his students, (He's a professor, remember?) and lo and behold, George is indeed needing of a place to live, ready to fall into Nina's waiting and ready arms.
The beeping grew a little quieter at this point, because we no longer care how George got there, but he's in the apartment now, and the laughs are just about to begin. Or not.
Nina is going out with Vince, a semi-sleazy guy who actually turns out, after some initial bumps, to be a not-that-bad-guy. Inexplicably, George and Nina take up ballroom dancing, and as we watch them whirl around on the floor every Friday night at the local community center in a montage encompassing every ballroom dance step known to man, it becomes painfully clear that Nina is falling hard for George.
What a quandary. She's in love with him, but he's gay. Here comes the conflict that your English teacher talked about. No conflict, no story.
Suddenly, Nina is pregnant with Vince's baby, and, screwing up her courage, Nina asks George to be a surrogate father to the kid. He has mixed feelings about it and is moody and irritable for a while, until suddenly he sees a dad playing catch with his son, and figures, "looks all right to me." And comes around, ready to step in as the daddy figure.
All is well for another little while, until, *gasp* Joely calls, wanting to get back together with George while they go away for a weekend to George's former college so Joely (the professor, remember,) is lecturing, or answering questions, it doesn't matter.
Again, in a mind-bendingly improbable coincidence, George soon ends up chatting amiably with the boyfriend of one of Joely's colleagues, a bitter old fruit who actually has a heart of gold and seems to be the only one around who sees what's going on. Joely, mysteriously, is never heard from again, and George and Paul, are sneaking around giving each other pecks on the cheek whenever Raymond, the colleague, isn't watching. Nina, suddenly feeling left out, gets surly and irritable because George is always out with Paul now, although no one has told her what's going on. It's Thanksgiving suddenly, and Nina and George invite Raymond and Paul over for dinner. (Did I forget to mention that Paul and Raymond are still living under the same roof? beep beep beep.) Paul decides that he will stay the night in George's room, and Raymond goes home alone, looking a tad world-weary as he leaves. Nina, who suddenly figures out what's going on, is terribly annoyed with George, who has, after all, agreed to be the father to her child. She, being wildly in love with him, is angry that he's got a new boyfriend, especially since she tried to seduce George, and almost didn't fail. (Oh did I not mention that, either?)
Slipping into ice bitch mode, Nina tells George he has to choose between Paul and Her, there will be no middle ground. They shout at each other and she throws ice cream at the door as he goes back to his room and Paul.
So, for a short time, EVERYONE is surly and irritable, especially since now, Vince is dating a colleague of George. Wait, Nina, when she had her purse stolen (didn't I mention that?) was driven home by a very nice cop who we can tell would be a wonderful person for her to hook up with, but won't. Nina, now very pregnant, is attending the wedding of George's brother, when what should happen but the band swings up and George and Nina cut the rug, oozing charisma and charm with every step. She suddenly realizes she still has a bit of a love/hate relationship with George, and flees to an adjoining room to have an emotional breakdown, George in hot pursuit to comfort her.
So, we have reached the climax...what will George do? Will he become straight to make her feel better? If that had been the case, I probably would have put my fist through the TV screen, but *whew* it doesn't. George decides to choose Paul, and Nina is left hurt, but without any further doubts.
Suddenly the baby arrives (remember she's pregnant?) and George leaves the apartment they shared to Nina and Molly, the insufferably perfect little movie baby.
It then skips five years into the future, Molly is performing on stage in a 1st grade production of George's who is now the principal of the School, and the whole cast is there so that the camera can swing down the row and tie up everyone's relationship in a neat little bow. Vince is alone, Nina is with the Cop that gave her a ride home *beep* Paul is there, Raymond is there, (not with Paul, just as a grandfatherly figure, or something) and all is well again in upper middle class New York.
If the story seems a bit trite, it is. Is it meant to be a dissection of the post-nuclear-family? A fable of love and redemption? A two-hanky tearjerker Romance? An attack on Romantic hypocrisy?
It has some good moments, not enough, but the stars, Paul Rudd as George, and Jennifer Anniston as Nina, do play off each other well enough, and the Confused Romance is made slightly more plausible because Paul Rudd is straight in real life.
However, it begs the question...Did the filmmakers make the Nina-George romance a bit too plausible? In making George appealing to Nina, and most of the female audience, they decided to make him unthreatening. I'm not saying that he should be threatening, but they made him asexual in the process, which made it a bit hard to believe all the nonsense and romance when it came to his relationship with Paul. A peck on the cheek now and then seems to be the norm in gay relationships in this movie, while the straight relationships are complex, layered, and have sex involved.
You can see the filmmakers trying throughout to make George as flat as possible--he flirts occasionally, but when all of a sudden we're supposed to believe that he's tearing up the night and the sheets with Paul, I just don't believe it. That was the major failing I saw. I guess it's a pretty good movie, just hard to believe at times. Jennifer Aniston is marginally better here than on "Friends," although again, she makes no money and still has a great apartment, which always puzzled me. Get this movie out if you're looking for basically fluffy fare, and not crowded with self-conscious politicking, it makes a nice, light snack.