Lifestyles of the Comfortable and Friendless
Paul Rudd and Jason Segel get bromantic
by Molly Templeton
I LOVE YOU, MAN: Directed by John Hambug. Written by Hamburg and Larry Levin; story by Larry Levin. Starring Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, Jane Curtin, Jon Favreau and Jaime Pressly. Dreamworks, 2009. 105 minutes. R.
|Jason Segel, Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones in I Love You, Man|
A great night is a simple thing for Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd): a bottle of wine to split with his fiancée, Zooey (Rashida Jones); some premium cable or maybe a Johnny Depp flick on the telly. Peter is a really nice guy, the kind of responsible, thoughtful fellow who is unfailingly kind to his colleagues, who makes a tray of root beer floats for his girlfriend’s pals on girls’ night and whose only problem with his gay brother Robbie (Andy Samburg) is that Robbie, not Peter, is their father’s best friend. He’s a perfectly happy, pretty well-off real estate agent — until he realizes, after proposing to Zooey, that something is missing: friends. She calls hers minutes after the proposal. He mumbles something about telling the guys at his fencing club, or his coworkers. Later.
Though it works hard to be dude-specific, playing off cultural clichés about everything male (bonding, pursuits, psyches, hobbies … ), I Love You, Man works, in part, because it pokes at a broader matter than it pretends to: the difficulty of making friends as an adult. When the possibility of friendship crashes and burns — as it colorfully does in Peter’s series of man-dates — it’s enough to make a person feel like a failure at life. But often a friendship clicks when it’s least expected. For Peter, the unexpected appears at an open house for Lou Ferrigno’s home. No one offers on the house, but Peter meets tall, mismatched, free-food-loving, effortlessly confident Sydney Fife (Peter Segel).
Sydney’s particular brand of cool is so opposite Peter’s calm politeness that Peter stammers and mumbles in his presence, blurting out idiotic nicknames and leaving awkward messages — both of which Rudd does with precise, hysterical timing. Sydney impresses Peter with his grasp of body language, his instrument-filled man-cave and his love for Rush; Peter, for his part, seems to charm Sydney with his nervous attempts at friendship and his willingness to ditch work to hang out and jam to “Tom Sawyer.” Sydney is a dude’s dude, a man-child who lives in a gender-divided world and says in all seriousness, “I don’t play sports with women,” or tells a nervous Peter to take his tampon out. He’s the guy you laugh at but don’t necessarily want to get dinner with. But in his way, he’s just right for Peter. Together, they stumble into silly running jokes (one involves Rudd’s inability to perform any accent but one that makes him sound “like a leprechaun”) and drop into the kind of meandering conversations from which real friendships are eventually born.
I Love You, Man is undeniably predictable: Peter and Zooey are happy until Peter’s new friendship with Sydney gets more involved. But to its credit, the movie just manages to keep Peter’s friendlessness from being about fear of male closeness or his not being enough of a manly stereotype — while playing off both of those possibilities and still remaining relevant to those audience members not on a man-date of their own. (Zooey is a lesser character, but she’s never asked to be a girlfriend cliché just to give Peter something to resist, and Jones brings a down-to-earth charm that suits Zooey’s understanding.) The dudetastic comedy may be starting to wear out its welcome, but I Love You, Man has a goofy sweetness, a sense of self-mockery, that buoys it to the happy ending — in which everyone gets the guy.