LGBT Movies: The Object of My Affection (1998)

In the late 90’s media celebrated the bond between straight women and gay men. Will and Grace and My Best Friend’s Wedding were smash hits. Less remembered, but still profitable, was a film called The Object of My Affection. Wendy Wasserstein adapted Stephen McCauley’s novel about a woman hopelessly in love with her gay best friend. The film showcased rising stars Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd. The stars are gorgeous but the characters are flavorless. They sit passively waiting for the supporting cast to shake them out of their rut. The film ultimately sees the friendship as a healthy one. I’m not sure I agree.

Let me break it down in this spoiler filled recap.

Act One: Girl Meets Boy

Scene One: Dinner Party
JENNIFER ANISTON (Social Worker): I missed my niece’s school play. What was it?
PAUL RUDD (Teacher): The Little Mermaid. A story of unrequited love that ends in tears.
JENNIFER: Appropriate since your ex-boyfriend is here.
PAUL: My what?
TIM DALY (Paul’s Boyfriend Ex): My bad. I was about to tell you we’re breaking up.

Scene Two: Giant Brooklyn Apartment
JENNIFER: You can stay as long as you like. You don’t have to wear clothes.
PAUL: Thanks. (Struts around in his underwear.)
LAWYER (Jenn’s Boyfriend): You let a gay move in and not me? Trying to turn him straight?
JENNIFER: Oh pshaw.

Scene Three: Family
(Paul and Jennifer take dance classes.)
JENNIFER: I’m pregnant. But I’d rather raise it with you than Lawyer.  
PAUL: Sure. I have no social life. And I want the respect that straight men get.
ALLISON JANNEY, ALAN ALDA & STEVE ZAHN (Their wacky relatives): What? You’ve known each other for 30 minutes!

Act Two: Boy Meets Boy

Scene Four: Bedroom
PAUL: My brother wants me to find a boyfriend.
JENNIFER: Why date a controlling man when you can date a controlling woman?
(Jennifer tries to ravish him.)
PAUL: Stop! Bad touch! Bad touch! (Flees.)

Scene Five: Writer’s Conference

TIM DALY: Paul I want you back.
NIGEL HAWTHORNE (Critic): Tim I hate your book. In fact, I hate everything.
TWINK (Nigel’s kept boy): Paul, walk with me.

Scene Six: Lake
(Paul and Twink go swimming.)
PAUL: I like poetry.
TWINK: I can pretend to like poetry. My name is Paul.
PAUL: Let’s just call you Twink. (They kiss.)
JENNIFER: (On the phone.) Paul come home! I’ve turned down three suitors because I missed you!

Act Three: Girl Loses Boy

Scene Seven: Thanksgiving Dinner
JENNIFER: Why is this film two hours? There’s barely a plot and my character has no agency.
PAUL: I’m dating Paul.
PAUL: The Twink.
JENNIFER: I turn my back and I find myself out on the line. You could have warned me but that would have been too kind.
NIGEL HAWTHORNE: Let him go Jennifer. Or you’ll end up bitter and alone like me.

Scene Eight: Steve Zahn’s Wedding
AUDRA MCDONALD (Wedding Singer): “You Were Meant for Meee…” Wait. There’s an actual song called “The Object of My Affection.” Shouldn’t I sing that instead?
(Paul and Jennifer dance.)
JENNIFER: The movie’s nearly over. You have to choose. Is it me or the Twink?
PAUL: It’s the Twink.
(The film originally ended here. But the studio made them add an…)

Epilogue: Years Later
(Jennifer’s daughter is performing in a school play. Paul, Jennifer, and their boyfriends watch from the audience.)
JENNIFER: We both got what we wanted and we’re still friends.
PAUL: Funny. The book’s ending was about disappointment and compromise.
JENNIFER: Well nobody in Hollywood wants that.
(Jennifer and Paul walk into the sunset as the credits roll.)


Life Was a Song

Rudd is so much the white, cute and disgustingly normal gay man [that] you just want to throw him in an S&M club and drench him in hot candle wax to get a little grit out of him.

Critic Bil Antoniou

My Best Friend’s Wedding branded Rupert Everett the quintessential gay best friend. He’d play similar roles opposite Madonna in The Next Best Thing and Kathy Bates in Unconditional Love. Both films flopped and his Hollywood moment passed. Paul Rudd, meanwhile, ditched the romcoms to play clowns and action heroes. He wouldn’t film another gay role till 2018’s Ideal Home. Jennifer Aniston is always working. But I haven’t seen her in anything since 1999’s Office Space.

The one who comes off the best is Nigel Hawthorne’s lonely critic. Roger Ebert called him a “touching and fascinating character [who] is mired in the worst kind of sitcom.” There’s a moment where he watches Paul Rudd and Paul Twink kiss outside his window. His silent heartbreak encapsulates the film’s theme so perfectly that it might as well end there.

McCauley’s source novel was written in 1987. By 1998 gay men were having better stories written about them. I’m glad Rudd found a boyfriend and didn’t stay Aniston’s pet. But that’s as progressive as the film gets.

Who are your favorite gay best friends on film? What are good stories of balanced LGBT/straight friendships in media? Read my reviews of LGBT media here. Listen to the Bad Gay Movies podcast review this film here. Listen to my podcast, Rainbow Colored Glasses, here.