I Love You, Man is a sweet, low-key comedy about two guys who find true friendship. As I left the screening a friend said it struck her as a kind of poor man’s Judd Apatow movie (meant as a positive thing, BTW) — in the literal sense, it seems lower-budget but it’s also just quieter, tamer, and less yucky. There’s tons of super awkwardness, similar to the kind we see each week in The Office, and little gross-out humor. It’s also simply more genuine than something Apatow might do, and it’s a nice change.
The movie focuses on the platonic relationship between two guys, and the fact that they’re guys is central to the humor of their awkward blossoming friendship. It all starts when Peter (Paul Rudd) proposes to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) and realizes that he has nobody to be his best man in the wedding. So, on the advice of his gay brother Robbie (Andy Samberg), he goes on a series of “man dates” to try and find a friend to be his best man. Finally, Peter meets Sydney (Jason Segel), the carefree and fun-loving antidote to Peter’s buttoned-up steadiness. Peter discovers what it’s like to talk frankly with another guy and how to loosen up a little bit and not always play by the rules. Sydney’s relaxed attitude starts to rub off on Peter, which is refreshing until it gets to the point that Peter (and Zooey, for that matter) feels like he’s not totally himself anymore. He then has to figure out if he can balance both romance and bromance in his life. For more of my thoughts on it all, read more.
There are a lot of perfect fits in this movie. Rudd and Segel are natural together, and they strike a comfortable balance of sincere affection and dudeliness. Rudd fits well with his character, Peter, who’s just a nice, stable guy with a calm and respectful temperament. It’s easy to like Peter for who he is, though we recognize that he lacks some confidence and might be more successful if he believed in himself. Rudd easily takes on this role, without judging Peter, and it’s satisfying to see that he’s quite capable of carrying a movie as the lead character.
The emphasis is on the “bromance” between these two guys — their totally straight man-love — and a lot of the humor stems from Peter trying to navigate a male friendship. How to get close but not really intimate? How much of himself should he show? It’s an exploration of friendship in general, really (finding the people who bring out the best in us, etc.). It’s just a new and funny story because of the ever-changing societal norms that dictate how men should acceptably express emotion and love.
There are funnier movies out there, but I Love You, Man is certainly one of the easiest and most digestible comedies I’ve seen in a long time. The boys are cute and funny without being over-the-top, and the girls are relatable and funny without being naggy psychos. There’s no poop or menstrual blood, but there are lots of silly lines that people will be quoting for a long, long time (“Sleppin’ da bayse, mon”). It’s like this year’s Anchorman or Superbad in that sense — but it’s a helluva lot cuter than both of those.