We brought you ‘Rachel Getting Married’ four months late; ‘The Reader’ three. Not a great record. But Lifting Fog is a paragon of self-improvement, our lag time now reduced to just TWO WEEKS as we bro it up with the latest Apatow-ish (but not Apatowian) offering, ‘I Love You, Man’. LET’S DO THIS.
When we go to the movies these days, we’re hard-wired to deliver one of two reviews: love it or hate it. “That was seriously, like, the best movie I have EVER seen!” you said after watching Slumdog Millionaire. “That was seriously, like, the biggest piece of sh*t I have EVER seen!” you said after Paul Blart: Mall Cop. While this binary rating system is occasionally valid (hi, Ain’t It Cool News!), enough movies exist in that “good, not great” or “well… satisfying” range to necessitate a less extreme response. Happy Gilmore. Dave. Meatballs. Forrest Gump. These are the movies you reach for on a sick day or watch on a bus – fun, harmless and easy enough to tune in to or out of at will. Eminently watchable; comfort cinema. What’s wrong with that?
I Love You, Man is exactly that kind of movie. Paul Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a nice, normal guy recently engaged to his girlfriend, Zooey (Rashida Jones). This would seem without complications BUT FOR ONE: despite his easygoing nature, Peter does not have any male friends who could serve as his best man. (“He’s always been more of a girlfriend guy,” says his brother Robby.) To rectify this, Peter sets out on a quest to meet dudes. Enter man-dates. Enter Jason Segel as Sydney Fife, the apple of Peter’s eye. Enter bromantic comedy.
It’s actually kind of fascinating how easily Man fits the mold of a traditional (man and woman) romantic comedy: the chance encounter, the courtship montage, the third act complication. None of it is played explicitly for laughs, either; each familiar beat unfolds with real believability, even when you can see it coming. Despite the goofiness of its premise, the film’s central relationship feels completely true to life.
This is owed almost entirely to Rudd and Segel’s perfect chemistry. A movie like this dies if you don’t buy the (b)romantic leads, but both actors are totally convincing. Their body language. The way they speak to each other, not in Judd Apatow-like “I am so gross yet quick-witted!” monologues but in a stilted, naturalistic back and forth. (Peter’s attempts at nicknaming alone are worth the ticket price.) This could be a real friendship. It’s refreshing, too, to see that friendship develop outside the confines of a typical Hollywood plot*. I mean, it’s there – the third act drama is pretty lame – but Man is so low-key, so mellow, that at times you forget you’re watching a movie and feel like you’re just hanging with your friends. That’s something I welcome with open arms.
There was a special moment in the men’s room following the film where you could tell that everyone there was sizing each other up (in a non-penis way (not that there’s anything wrong with that)), wondering if the dude next to him might possibly be new friend material. Kind of beautiful, and an affirmation of the power of cinema – I Love You, Man is not a great film, but if it forges one new bromance or strengthens an already existing one, then it’s totally done its job.
* (The fact that Peter and Sydney are grown men with real jobs comes as something of a pleasant surprise – and something I hope is here to stay – after five years spent celebrating “endearing” Seth Rogen/Jonah Hill f*ck-ups. More on this later.)