Bromance in an age of recession, or "I Love You, Man

By Steve Sedlak

The first time I heard of John Hamburg’s “I Love You, Man”- featuring Paul Rudd, Rashida Jones and Jason Segel – it was explicitly refered to as a bromance. I couldn’t think of a more perfectly awkward word to describe the film. “I Love You Man” fits right into the growing bookshelf of glossy sex comedies coming out of Hollywood in recent years, right in between “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Superbad.” And yet “I Love You, Man” seems both a little more emotionally mature and plausible than either of the aforementioned Judd Apatow films. The film’s story is, while a little bizarre, fairly simple and less convoluted than some of Judd Apatow’s productions. In the very first scene, Peter Klaven proposes to his girlfried Zooey. He then realizes that he has no close male friends – or any friends other than his girlfriend, for that matter. The rest of the film devotes itself to sending up Peter’s humorous search for a new male best friend to be the best man at his wedding. What ensues is an awkward goose chase of homosocial hijinks, love and friendship. Peter goes out on a few “man dates” with the help of the internet and motherly connections that almost all end poorly. As to be expected, the man that becomes his best friend appears out of the blue, like all real best friends.

At first glance “I Love You, Man” looks like a new manifestation of the buddy flick of the 1970s. Unfortunately, the buddy flick of the 1970s was possibly one of the most anti-feminist cultural artifacts to be left behind by the decade, and even now the films sometimes saunter up from the outskirts of Hollywood film production and into the spotlight of popular cinema. These are movies that try to remove the classical Hollywood motif of the heterosexual romance by replacing it with the record of platonic relationship between two heterosexual males. What’s more anti-feminist than a fictional world with no women?

But “I Love You, Man” does everything it can to tear apart and rebuild the buddy film in a more sensitive and politically correct way. Peter’s search for male friendship always borders on being misunderstood as homosexual in nature, and this alone becomes the main source for many of the film’s laughs. On top of that, Peter’s sometimes ridiculous acts of masculine affectation – like his excessive use of the world “slap the bass” – makes it hard not to laugh at more stereotypical images of masculinity, such as those present in the original buddy films of the 1970s.

In the end “I Love You, Man” is simply a funny and heart-warming film that both takes a little step back and a little one forward – forward in its deconstruction of the buddy film and some of the more hegemonic images of masculinitiy prevalent in contemporary Hollywood cinema, and backward in its imagining of how we experience friendship and intimacy in a Facebook-ruled recessionary society. It’s not a complex plot – in fact, it’s kind of hackneyed. But it has a lot of unfashionable heart, and sometimes when its manipulated correctly, heart is better than the artsy contemplation necessitated by the indie film. Perhaps more than ever, movies that will make us laugh first and think later are what we need right now.

So if you have some spare time before crunch time, ask a friend out on a date – or man date – to see this fun and moving movie.?You won’t regret it.