I Love You, Man
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Judd Apatow, the director of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” had nothing to do with John Hamburg’s “I Love You, Man,” but it is now clear that Apatow’s comic influence has officially rattled the zeitgeist cage. Billed embarrassingly as a “bromantic comedy,” “I Love You, Man” is marked by a dry wit, a gleefully sarcastic self-awareness, and characters that may, on the outside, look like boring sitcom archetypes, but who are, in fact, rich, fully-realized human beings with entertaining and recognizable foibles. These are trends that were popularized by Apatow and his stable of actors. Because of this influence, “I Love You, Man” is elevated from a cheap, cliché-ridden sitcom to an honest and funny film – sans wince-inducing gross-out comedy – which manages to touch the audience, rather than just give them a forgettable giggle.
Ambitious real-estate agent Peter (Paul Rudd) just got engaged to his short-time girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones). Peter is a genial fellow, and polite, but not exactly an “A”-type personality. Indeed, he’s kind of milquetoast. Because of this, he’s spent his life having deep, meaningful relationships with women, rather than any sort of friendships with other men. His fiancée and family proceed to set him up on dates with other guys, so that he may have a best man in time for the wedding. These dates go predictably badly.
At an open house (“To sell the Lou Ferrigno estate”), Peter meets Sydney (Jason Segel). Sydney is a laidback guy who resides on Venice Beach, and lives a quintessentially male existence. He listens to Rush, has a No-Girls-Allowed rule in place for his garage, and a specialized area devoted to masturbation. He doesn’t clean up after his dog, and occasionally screams at strangers (“to release some testosterone”).
In a lesser film (imagine a film starring Ben Stiller), Sydney (perhaps played by Adam Sandler) would become fast friends with Peter, and then slowly transform into a psychopath, becoming a whiny, clingy monster who accidentally destroys Peter’s life. Peter would demonstrate slow burn, and then there would be an inexplicable reconciliation in time for the ending.
“I Love You, Man” is bigger than that. Yes, there are moments of embarrassment and flashes of juvenile humor, and yes, there is a crisis, but it springs not from a cartoon, scene-stealing weirdo, but from Peter’s own insecurities and relationships. Sydney actually speaks wisdom, and knows how to maneuver through his life. Sure, he’s an arrested adolescent, but brings life to Peter. They have a believable friendship. It’s not until later that Sydney has to face the fact that most of his other male friends are getting important careers, getting married, and leaving him behind.
Add to this a supporting cast that includes J.K. Simmons as dad, Jane Curtin as mom, Andy Samburg as gay brother, and Jaime Pressley and Jon Favreau as the bickering couple from Hell, and you’ve got something worthwhile.
I expected a slight comedy from “I Love You, Man” and got a good film. Hurray.