‘I Love You, Man’ is maybe a little too accurate for comfort

FROM JASON’S LOCAL THEATER — The way my wife kept knowingly elbowing me in the ribs the entire 110 minutes of I Love You, Man was more than just physically uncomfortable.

Since graduating from college several years ago, I’ve found myself mired in those particularly strange doldrums where man-friends are awkward to come by. It’s not that I’m socially inept. It’s just that the workforce is a different playground than high school or college — relationships are much more casual and often competitive now that I’m almost 30.

So in the theater with Lisa, I was squirming a bit about the film’s main theme: When all-around good guy Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) is engaged and needs to findĀ  a best man, he realizes his old friends have fallen by the wayside and goes in search of a new blood brother.

Lisa’s been hassling me now about this for ages. “Why don’t you have any close guy friends?” she asks. “Don’t you want to go get a beer with someone?”

The problem is that at my age, how do you 1) find a guy with common interests, 2) build a relationship without feeling totally, totally gay, and 3) find time to juggle a bro and a wife?

  1. This step was easy in college. There were so many dudes packed into such confined dorm space that you couldn’t help but find somebody interesting doing something awesome, and the social barriers to entry were lowered. These days, I’d almost have to join some sort of club to meet other guys with my humor, cultural knowledge set, and sensibilities.Church is right out of the question; I don’t do sports because I’m uncoordinated; I refuse to hang out at a game shop; and I refuse to join activist groups because they always sour. A favorite hang-out is the library, but that’s no place to strike up a conversation.
  2. Anyone familiar with the Man Code knows it’s easy to strike up relationships with women. It’s finding common ground with other guys that’s the delicate matter.First, there is my northeastern US puritanical unbringing and its “manhood” baggage. Men don’t share feelings. They don’t talk things out. They don’t hug or touch in any way other than the occassional spirited punch in the arm or Top Gun-style high five.
  3. If you’re married, you know that time is a precious gift from the gods. Chances are you already have at least one job, a house to clean, cars to repair, dogs to walk, kids to clean up after, a toilet to fix, the lawn to mow, a kitchen to remodel, a sidewalk to shovel, groceries to buy, and then if there is time left over you collapse and maybe think about sex.After that, whatever hour a day is left over can be divided amongst television, video games, or beer.The Internet is a novel solution to the time-crunch-vs.-friends problem. For instance, Andrew and I have been hanging out online, watching movies, bragging about sexual prowess, debating economic and political realities, arguing about which bands are good and which are shite. Watching Battlestar Galactica. Surprisingly, watching Andrew make his own cheese. Gaming.

Paul Rudd decided to take an unrealistic tack. He trying man-dating. He actively went out seeking a friend, and that hilariously backfired until by chance he stumbled onto a kindred soul in Jason Segel (of How I Met Your Mother), who is the least interesting part of the entire film.

Let it be said at this point that I refuse to use or endorse the term “bro-mance.”

Overall, I was pretty happy with the film, with its sympathetic portrayal of my plight, positive treatment of gay characters, the excellent and appropriate use of Andy Samberg and J.K. Simmons as members of Rudd’s family, and the cute Rashida Jones as Rudd’s fiance (The Office), who thankfully plays against the ball-and-chain stereotype.

I was pleasantly surprised, really, with how well the script played out. I was wary of the suspiciously positive treatment Entertainment Weekly gave the film — the rare A for a comedy — and how various media have been overtly positioning Paul Rudd as the new everyman star.

That’s not to say there were no weaknesses in the flick: The constantly overplayed “guy slang” was annoying as hell, as was the blatant product placement and overbearing Rush worship.

Now, Judd Apatow wasn’t involved as far as I could tell, but the major players were from his crew and were making good use of his comedic style, falling in line with the likes of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. That means I Love You, Man was replete with the fart and sex humor I typically despise, but mostly with such heart that it avoided the shallowness of many of buddy films.

That could be attributed mainly to a dialogue that isn’t necessarily realistic so much as it is true, which I know is a fine distinction to make. But for all Rudd’s fumbling and polite clumsiness, he felt like a guy I could understand — a John Cusack more than a John Wayne.


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