As good a comedy about male friendship as I’ve seen, I Love You, Man captures the essence of relationships with brilliant comic timing and hilarious dialogue. Directed by John Hamburg, this is a movie that pokes fun at what it means to be a grown-up male in a time where strong friendships are hard to come by. The plot is actually quite original, too, and the performers have tremendous chemistry together.
Connection is important, of course, and it works in spades with I Love You, Man. Stars Paul Rudd and Jason Segel have worked together in two Judd Apatow projects and have displayed natural chemistry, especially during those hilarious surfing sequences in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And Hamburg worked with Segel on Apatow’s Undeclared TV show, furthering the behind-the-scenes connections. Due to the comfort the performers have with one another, the film itself naturally becomes a very snug prospect.
Rudd stars as Peter Klaven, a real estate salesman in the high end of the business. He has just gotten engaged to Zooey Rice (Rashida Jones) and has got things working quite well. Zooey, naturally, calls all of her friends with the news of the engagement and, as the process carries itself out, Peter realizes that he has a shortage of friends to call his own. It turns out that he has dedicated all of his time and energy to his relationships with women in life and, as Peter’s brother Robbie (Andy Samberg) explains, his friends have “fallen by the wayside.”
Thus begins a hilarious mission to find some friends. Peter hits all the angles searching for a platonic relationship and ends up in some interesting predicaments, proving that it’s actually pretty difficult to make friends in this day and age when there are no strings attached. He eventually gives up on the whole thing, only to meet Sydney (Segel). Peter and Sydney strike up a friendship almost immediately and go through all of the awkward complications of getting close as two heterosexual males. This leads to, of course, a bit of trouble that all gets resolved neatly by the time the credits roll.
Rudd knocks this movie out of the park as a charmingly clueless guy trying to be cool to gain friends. There’s nothing wrong with Peter, of course, and his reason for not having other close male friends is simply by accident of circumstance. Opportunities for male companionship have vanished in favour of Sunday HBO nights and other special experiences with Zooey and other women in his life, which is something I found myself personally relating to.
I Love You, Man makes great comedy out of the awkwardness felt between two men pursuing a new platonic relationship. There is this strange societal implication that we are supposed to be set in our friendship ways by the conclusion of high school and that we are damned to a life of acquaintances and office pals after that. It’s strange how hard it is for a straight man to walk up to another straight man for a conversation and maybe a beer, but what this film delivers actually rings true.
Segel is the perfect match to Rudd’s uber-sincerity and matches everything with this sort of freedom-laced comic timing. There are no rules in his world: his tiny dog shits where it wants to and he’ll take on the Hulk if he so pleases. Interestingly, though, the friendship that blossoms between Segel’s Sydney and Rudd’s Peter is delicate, natural and interesting beyond the typical “buddy” sort of way and it feels good, for once, to see a film depict straight male relationships without resorting to stereotypes.
In the end, I Love You, Man turns out to be a very funny, very heartfelt comedy just perfect for guys and girls trying to understand their guys. Friendship, especially in these days, is a hard thing for a man to wrap his head around sometimes. And as the advancing tide of life pulls us into different relationships and away from lifelong connections, it can be a vital shock to the system to find that one guy who, by hook or by crook, just showed up for the panini.