Bromance Is In the Air
I Love You, Man
The romantic comedy is a tried and true genre at this point. Although more often than not cast to the depths of Hallmark Channel originals (and I just verified that, yes, that channel still exists), there are still plenty of romantic comedies created by larger studios. It's a genre that comes and goes as various forms of these comedies prove successful -- the weepy, the crude and crass, the bawdy but hysterical -- but there will always be romantic comedies. People like to laugh while watching characters fall in love.
Slightly less documented, but still a genre that has come into its own over time, is the "bromantic comedy". Bromance, or friendship between dudes, doesn't get explored in the same way that romantic comedies do. A guy and a girl finding love is something Hollywood clearly understand (or, at least pretends they do). A dude finding friendship with another guy is a different beast, though. Usually guys are already friends when the movie starts, or a friendship that comes during the course isn't the focus of the film. A movie that celebrates two dudes finding friendship together is rare indeed.
I Love You, Man, released in 2009, is a film that absolutely plays up the "bromance" part of the equation. It takes the basic tropes of the romantic comedy drama -- the "meet cute", the times watching the grow together, the inevitable "falling out" before they find a way to come back together -- that's all represented here. Just in the context of a platonic friendship, though. It's a movie that shows guys being healthy and happy, finding new relationships without it having to be anything strange. It's a good movie, and a funny one, but most of all it presents guys in a healthy way.
The film stars Paul Rudd as Peter Klaven, a real estate agent with big dreams of making a huge, L.A. business development. All he needs is to sell the Lou Ferrigno house, which he has under contract, so he can get that money and seal the deal. But with his life on track, he decides to propose to his girlfriend, Zooey Rice (Rashida Jones), and get their life moving into its bright new future. The only problem is that while Zooey has a whole host of girl friends who will stand on her side as her bridesmaids, Peter doesn't have even a single guy friend he could even point to.
What Peter needs is a friend. One friend that isn't his fiancee, her friends -- Jaime Pressly as Denise, Sarah Burns as Hailey -- or his family -- J. K. Simmons as Oswald, Jane Curtin as Joyce, and Andy Samberg as Robbie. As chance would have it, though, while showing off the Ferrigno house, in comes Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), a laid back guy there to eat the food and hit on divorcees (which he;s up front about). That chance encounter leads to drinks the next night, and then hanging out at Sydney's house most days as they jam out to Rush songs. Syndey becomes Peter's best friend in a matter of weeks, but it starts to pull him away from Zooey. Can he have it all, or is Sydney a bad influence on the future Peter always wanted?
In construction, I Love You, Man is a romantic comedy. Yes, Peter is already in a relationship and ready to get married, but what he needs is a friend, and so the movie (directed by John Hamburg and written by Hamburg and Larry Levin) takes Peter through all the beats of a traditional romantic comedy... just for friendship. He realizes he needs someone in his life, and laments about it to his family. He tried a few "man dates" to find friends, but no one really clicks. Then the perfect person falls into his life and he suddenly finds himself in deep, committing all his waking hours to this other person... and it scares him. It's a rom-com arc you could see in plenty of movies, just this time it's for dudes and friendship.
Frankly, I think the healthiest part of the film is the fact that it presents these two guys growing close and finding true friendship with each other like it's love. They each have people in their lives, but not like this, and they both realize it. They learn it to the point where they can say, comfortably, that they love each other and have it just be about friendship. You don't see that kind of relationship in American media, and honestly we probably should. Letting guys just be more open, and realize they can be because movies make it okay, is something we should see more of in Hollywood.
It helps that Rudd and Segel play their parts so well. They're two dudes, acting like dudes, but they also commit fully to their fun friendship as well. They have legitimate bro chemistry, a casual fun vibe that permeates all their scenes. You buy the friendship because these guys are able to just casually riff with each other likes it's nothing. The film has to sell you on the idea that these guys have found a friendship that could last for decades, and with Rudd and Segel they sell that idea with aplomb.
Although, honestly, the whole film is filled with great comedic performers. Simmons and Curtain as Peter's parents. Samberg as Peter's gay brother, who steals a lot of the scenes he's in. Pressly and Burns as Zooey's friends, who manage their own solid banter, bringing life to these characters who only get a few short scenes. And, of course, Rashida Jones as Zooey, who believably plays the woman madly in love with Peter who also wants him to find a real friend. You get the genuine care and concern she feels for Peter, with Jones selling it all perfectly.
Plus, it really is a funny film. There's great scenes of Peter and Sydney hanging out in Sydney's man cave, revealing stuff about each other. They have a lot of fun, witty banter as they hang out around L.A., just being bros. This film plays heavily on Rudd's likability, letting Segel play the goofier part with the solid reaction shots, and it works. The script brings in a lot of funny lines, while the two actors manage to breath life, and comedy into their roles. It's a different kind of comedy from Rudd's film the previous year, Role Models, but no less funny.
I Love You, Man is a fun, sweet little comedy that shows how the formula of romantic comedies can be applied in interesting ways. It allows the two male leads to find the kind of chemistry that would normally be reserved for romantic partners in films but apply it to their platonic friendship. It's the kind of relationship comedy we should see more of in films and shows, and I'm glad this film exists. It's very watchable, and very fun, and a good film to go back to every few years just to enjoy these two characters and their friendship.