By Melissa Pierson
October 01, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

As two new-to-tape movies demonstrate, the game of love gets exponentially complicated when someone who thought he was gay suddenly starts feeling a little less so, or when someone with determination is determined to have the guy she wants, no matter that he doesn’t want her — at least in ”that way.”

This is what happens to Nina (Jennifer Aniston) in ”The Object of My Affection.” She’s a Brooklyn social worker looking for love in all the wrong places, most notably the person of a gentle schoolteacher (Paul Rudd) who’s splendidly right in every way but one. They even fall in love, after a fashion — only celibacy suits neither of them. And no matter how much wishful thinking she engages in, she can’t make him less fundamentally attracted to members of his own sex.

The one upstanding thing about the film is that it doesn’t pander to those conventional tastes by offering a miraculous conversion, but everything else about Object, including the washed-out dialogue by Wendy Wasserstein and the dozens of implausibilities (social work consists of sharing relationship tips with teen clients; the school play has a costume budget exceeding that of Cats), marks it as Hollywood’s standard cheap fake.

Possessed of a sense of humor that redeems all is 16-year-old white trash mother-to-be Dedee (marvelous Christina Ricci), star and narrator of the unmitigated hoot ”The Opposite of Sex” (on tape Oct. 27). She has no qualms or scruples, and only one agenda: to wreck lives wherever she goes. She’s beautifully open about this, and her voice-overs speak what many think but few say: ”There’s other people a lot nicer [than me] coming up…we call them losers”; ”Gays love houses.” This makes her a sort of paragon of honesty, even as she lies, cheats, and steals. For Dedee, it’s gender, schmender. Everyone’s up for grabs, even the cupcake boyfriend (Ivan Sergei) of her gay half brother, Bill (Martin Donovan).

Writer-director Don Roos turns every American stereotype (rabid Christian redneck, tabloid TV reporter) into its opposite and back again with precise comedic timing, and his cast delivers uniformly spot-on performances. Lisa Kudrow in particular, playing an uptight spinster with unrequitable desires for Bill, manages to be both ridiculous and endearing, like ”The Opposite of Sex” itself.

With an eloquence that ”The Object of My Affection” lacks, ”The Opposite of Sex” expresses the simple, old-fashioned truth that lies buried beneath the contemporary anxiety over who sleeps with whom. Sex, the way Dedee pursues it, has an opposite — it’s called love. And a fixation on sexual identity has an opposite too. It’s called humanity. ”Object”: B-; ”Opposite”: A-

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