Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #272
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: March 20, 2009
Country of Origin: United States
Box office: $91,636,986
Running time: 105 minutes
Director: John Hamburg
Producers: Donald De Line. John Hamburg
Screenplay: John Hamburg, Larry Levin
Story: Larry Levin
Cinematography: Lawrence Sher
Score: Theodore Shapiro
Editing: William Kerr
Studios: De Line Pictures, Bernard Gayle Productions, The Montecito Picture Company
Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures
Stars: Paul Rudd, Jason Segal, Rashida Jones, Sarah Burns, Greg Levine, Jaime Pressly, Jon Favreau, Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons, Andy Samberg, Jean Villepique, Rob Huebel, Mather Zickel, Aziz Ansari, Nick Kroll, Lou Ferrigno
Suggested Audio Candy:
Billy Idol Dancing With Myself
Those four little words can mean so much. They can also be incredibly hard for a man to utter. We all like to consider ourselves as sensitive souls but, while we may listen to Barbara Streisand LPs behind closed doors, in public we have a reputation to uphold and that would surely be compromised by such an open display of affection towards the same sex. However, over the past few years, the tide has changed somewhat. David Gordon Green’s glorious slacker comedy Pineapple Express started the revolution, leaving us initially somewhat confused by its seemingly homoerotic message, but winning us over with its acute observations about the unique relationship shared by men. It dealt with the white elephant in the room so adeptly that, by its conclusion, we had been blindsided completely and were far more comfortable with our feelings.
I was as much of a culprit as the next man. A few years back I had a friend who often ended his text communications with a kiss or two. Initially this raised warning signs as to his sexual orientation and it appeared that he may well be conflicted despite his insistence that he had ‘never been confused’. Back then it just wasn’t the done thing and I wasn’t entirely at ease with the gesture. Anybody who has watched my podcasts with Silent Shadow will be more than aware how much things have changed. We hug, kiss and cup one another’s testicles lovingly without ever once contemplating slipping each other a length and this is because we are more than comfortable in our skin. Have we been emasculated? Not at all, we’re no less stud-like than we were before the revolution. However, times have changed considerably, and a new dawn is now well and truly upon us.
While it is unlikely we will be sitting around in our pajamas licking marshmallow fluff from the same dessert spoon and engaging in pillow fights any time soon, neither is it necessary for us to prove our machismo through examples of overbearing masculinity and masticate the heads of fruit bats to hammer home our point. The ‘bromance’ has become not only acceptable but encouraged and it is works like John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man which have heralded this change. Nowadays, wearing a shocking pink sweater is not so readily vilified and admittance of having a soft spot for The Devil Wears Prada no longer earns you a dead arm from buddies. If anything, it is those who are unable to embrace their femininity, who have been placed under the search light. The worm has officially turned.
John Hamburg is a name most of you will likely be unfamiliar with. Despite undertaking co-writing duties for Zoolander and all three Fockers films he rarely steps behind the camera. The most notable instance of him donning his directorial hat has been the underwhelming Stiller/Aniston vehicle Along Come Polly in 2004 which was memorable only for an inspired turn from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as chemistry between its two leads was nigh-on non-existent. Thankfully, there is no lack of magnetism between the well-drawn main protagonists here, the casting of Paul Rudd and Jason Segal is absolutely inspired and they are aided by a script which positively crackles with invention and a fine supporting cast which include JK Simmons, Jon Favreau and Andy Samberg.
“Why is it weird that I have girl friends?”
Rudd is never anything less than charming and, more critically, is the ideal candidate to play tightly wound L.A. realtor Peter Klaven, a man far more comfortable in the company of women than with fellow bucks. With his wedding to long-term girlfriend Zooey looming large he finds himself in something of a quandary. While his bride-to-be is busy partaking in the customary dress fittings and working out who is most deserving of her tossed bouquet, Peter is without a candidate for best man and fast running out of time to snag himself a keeper. Cue a serious of increasingly cataclysmic man-dates which suggest that I Love You, Man is only interested in adhering to the template. That all changes with the introduction of a certain Sydney Fife.
“Society tells us we’re civilized but the truth is we are animals. Sometimes we just have to let it out. Try it”
Segal is best known for his courageous turn in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and ever-present attendance in a number of Judd Apatow produced movies but here he finds possibly his true calling. As self-confessed man-child Fife he portrays a character most of us will identify with instantly. He represents the freedom that we all crave but ordinarily surrender at around our mid-twenties. Residing in a converted garage nearby to the boardwalk of Venice Beach, he possesses all the gadgets, reclining chairs, and man-cave furnishings we leave behind on commencement of meaningful relationships and is unapologetic in his pursuit of happiness. Moreover, he is intelligent, and presented as far more than simple caricature as would have been an effortless endeavor had Hamburg been disinterested in relating to his audience so exclusively.
“Look man you told my fiancee she needs to give me bloweys, in front of my whole family. Alright you owe me”
What develops is a surprisingly tender bromance, the two find numerous common ground and hit it off in spectacular fashion, becoming inseparable as their relationship blooms. It is here where I Love You, Man finds its center, it is relatable in the extreme and treads the same boards as an Apatow movie, keeping it unerringly real while teaching us a few valuable lessons about ourselves in the process. The whole complexity of the film changes as they forge a friendship which enables Peter to relax his tightly clenched sphincter and savor each fart rather than sliding them out incognito at lingerie soirees and rapidly vacating the area. Fife is the kind of guy who would insist the windows be secured so that heady aroma can be enjoyed fully whilst brewing his very own blend of colonic Chernobyl.
“Did you know that the best night I’ve had in the last 5 years is a night that Zooey and I split a bottle of wine, we made a summer salad and watched Chocolat together?”
Hamburg and fellow screenwriter Larry Levin of Seinfeld fame, resist the urge to take the path most traveled and instead pile on the observational humor and focus on insight, at the expense of crassness. It is this which elevates this beyond the usual fare and gives it a timeless appeal that further augments with repeat viewing. Rudd and Segal couldn’t have been better chosen for their roles and spark off one another consistently throughout but it is the feeling of familiarity it evokes which resonates strongest. I, for one, can relate to all manner of scenarios showcased here and not since The 40 Year Old Virgin have I been presented with a character as recognizable as Peter Klaven.
“Hey there Miss Moneypussy. Wanna jump on my jet pack?”
I was always that guy, my skin never quite fitted, to the point where I eventually began to question my own sexuality. In that respect, I Love You, Man offers empowerment and the knowledge that what you are feeling is par for the course. I’m no more gay than the next guy but can appreciate the sentiment as we all wish to be understood and often men and women are leagues apart in their estimations of what makes the other tick. It is perhaps the cruelest of all ironies that the square peg need fit the round hole but that is the punishment dished out to Adam and Eve for scoffing the forbidden fruit. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can bestow upon this film is that it took thousands of years to reach the point we’re at now and, in years to come, this wonderful piece of insightful entertainment may well be remembered for spearheading the sexual revolution.
“Wait, you jerked off to a picture of your own girl friend? You – that – wow, that is sick! Oh my God, what is wrong with you?”
I Love You, Man makes no bones about its intentions, bromance all the way. If Pineapple Express was Casablanca for the heterosexual male then this represents the modern man’s Some Like It Hot. Whilst preliminarily likely to appeal most to the fellas, Hamburg fluently strikes the right balance between physical humor and delicately observed intuition, endearing it to both sexes and potentially teaching us a little more about our opposite numbers in the process. We live in a transmogrified world where Brad Pitt once struggled to resonate with guys despite being a fine performer because he was considered a threat whereas, nowadays, most men would openly admit to man-crushing on Ryan Gosling. Ladies, take comfort from this and be sure to hide your skin care products as we are coming for them next.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10
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