Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Love You, Man

Sweaty Pals

I Love You, Man is a delightful film not just for its brand of humour which worked almost all the time, nor because it stars the bunch of contemporary jokers who have taken Hollywood by storm, but because it had a meaningful story to tell, and has translated that key insight of friendships and relationships for the big screen effortlessly, wrapping up some deep, intrinsic behavioural observation deceptively behind a curtain of laughter.

Like the 40 Year Old Virgin in its quest for a woman to get laid with to pop his cherry, this film works on the reverse in its protagonist's quest for a male friend, since Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) has no problems with female friendship as he's the quintessential ladies man, only that he's about to marry his fiance Zooey (Rashida Jones). Since the bride has a maid of honour, it's up to Peter to find a balance in a best man, only that he hasn't really had a man friend for the longest time, and so begins a crazy montage of hooking up with casual friends in the hope of striking gold.

It might seem like a hypothetical situation, but as the film progressed, it brings to mind how many of us have friends (male or female) that we sometimes take for granted in knowing that they'll always be there for us. Only a reality check brings up the fact that everyone has their own personal lives to lead, and it wouldn't be nice to impose (mid-life crisis singles, hands up here), especially not with an ulterior motive. Some of us too when having a girlfriend, tend to allow male friends to fall on the wayside as we skirt chase, and depending on whether you get someone who provides that much leeway as Zooey, you can kiss goodbye to those male-bonding sessions.

Then there's the difference between the premise of a girl's night out, and a guy's, and the dynamics of what happens within the groups. It can be somewhat stereotypical here in the film, but you get the drift as the film lays it all out on the table, with the girls talking about the boy-stuff behind their backs, and the worst bit being that cause for comparison, and the guys, well, talk about what else, sex! There are some lines clearly drawn here in what can, or cannot be discussed, and how much of that you can bring to the table, and how much you can take away from. A secret's a secret, and should stay that way with clear segregation in order to prevent upsetting anyone. Talk about compromises and "truth" and honesty which is an essential ingredient to a healthy relationship.

If what you're saying is that it reeks of hypocrisy, then yes, sometimes it does, and the married couple played by Jaime Pressly and Jon Favreau (yes, he who directed Iron Man) epitomizes the crankiness of a marriage with its idiosyncrasies, and the hypocrisies that come with presenting a united front, and worse of all, trading favours in both directions. They have some of the best lines and insane moments in the film, and poor Jon has got to suffer two verbal abuses (for you to watch and find out).

Many of us who have remembered Jason Segel's comical turn in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and here he cuts his Sydney Fife both ways, one an alpha male type who seems way cool with his frat boy sensibilities, which is actually a facade for a lonely life he leads in his garage where he can be the man he actually is. As the friendship between Peter and Sydney grow from their numerous hanging out sessions, from short drinking sessions to weekend rendezvous just to jam to their favourite tunes, so too does the strain in Peter and Zooey's relationship, because as the saying goes, two's a company, and three's a crowd. This aspect serves as an adversary in the film, though it doesn't come unexpected when it suddenly dawns upon Peter that he can't have two birds in one hand. Being the novice in this aspect of a man-friend relationship here, there are many times Peter trips up, and the experienced us would know that it's perfect danger territory to find yourself in.

And who would have thought friendship and relationships could be such a chore, especially when expectations start flying around being that spanner ready to be thrown in the works. As a comedy, this film hit plenty of right spots in eliciting laughter from the audience, with funny lines that do work, and carefully crafted characters in Peter (with his nonsensical one-liner conversation endings, and nicknames), and Sydney being quite multi-dimensional. And what's a film like this about man-friends without that dose of fanboy-dom in it, with the Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno playing himself in a very short supporting role, and many other film references thrown in for good measure too?

I Love You, Man is an excellent story on friendship, and what makes friendship tick. For that and its healthy dose of comedy, and a great spin on the tired romantic-comedy genre, it goes without a surprise into my list of contenders for top films of the year.

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