I Love You Man - Movie Review
I Love You Man
Judd Apatow somehow isn't just a name anymore. It's a genre. It's a genre comprised of films that make you feel gross but are grounded in relatable characters facing often crude but also relatable situations, and usually featuring some supporting cast member from the television series Freaks and Geeks. Some of these movies are more successful than others. Many of them were films that had very little to do with the actual Judd Apatow. Even still, Knocked Up was actually quite good. Superbad won me over. Forgetting Sarah Marshall consistently kept me laughing. Labeling them these classics is a tough prospect as much of the humor is dependent upon audience reaction, currently relevant political/social commentary, and most notably, shock value. They just might not be as funny in a few years. With that said, the film I Love You Man has something very strong going for it. It has a sense of observational cleverness that is surprisingly easy to relate to, even when it goes against your better judgement.
Peter, played by Paul Rudd, is a nice guy in a nice happy relationship (something that's uncommon for a "guy flick"), but their relationship is stilted due to Peters lack of guy friends. To balance this problem, and perhaps find someone to be his best man at his approaching wedding, Peter begins to find his search for Mr. Right. With this, I Love You Man becomes an excellent exercise in satire as it examines the dynamics of a romantic relationship and the dynamics of friendship under the same microscope, viewing neither as easy, nor even entirely platonic. What Peter finds is Sydney, played by Jason Segel, whose laid-back attitude and overall demeanor makes him an ideal candidate for best friend material, but Sydney's immediate acceptance of Peter hints that he too may be influenced by an unhealthy relational imbalance.
Paul Rudd has previously proven himself as a demanding comedic force with his minor role as a delusional surfing instructor in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. His character of Peter walks the line between amusing and occasionally annoying, frequently delivering lines in a voice borrowed from Steve Carrell. The movie understands that this voice is not his own, and what Rudd understands is that when he acts like himself, Peter can become rather endearing. His performance is often uncomfortable, but only because his character is trying so hard to be the exact opposite. It's a wonder that Rudd manages to keep himself from falling too far away from the audience's sympathy. Segel is immediately likable, and his brief confrontation between a body-builder and his dog had me laughing well after the film had ended. He functions not just as a buddy, but a sort of twisted psychologist.
Compared to the other "Apatow" movies released in the past few years I Love You Man seems to be going for less visually shocking gags than others, yet it still remains rather explicit. It appears as though in a universe such as this it only takes a moment for any character with any varying degree of innocence to suddenly recite a definition from Urban Dictionary. Which is still funny, at times, but not always THAT funny. At other times the film appears to be catering to the audience that seeks to laugh out of gross revelation, which is likely the male audience engrossed in contact sports and weight-lifting, while the characters themselves are seeking to avoid that very same stereotypical camaraderie that the general public considers healthy male friendships to be centered around. I can't remember any gags involving a kick to the family jewels, but there will be farting, sleeper-holds, and frank discussions of, well, you'll see. It's actually all very funny.
I have conflicted feelings in regards to films like this. Lately I've been overdosing on them, especially with the recent release of the Hangover, and want to give each of them their fair chance. Crude humor often hits me the wrong way. The more I think about the Hangover, the less I like it. With this one it's the exact opposite. What I Love You Man gets right are the moments of keen observation in which the difference between friendships, relationships, and what makes each of them work, or even funnier, result in projectile vomit, are well documented. I laughed consistently throughout, and, even more interestingly, I felt an undeniable connection with many of these characters. Even when it's over-the-top, the frank nature the film exhibits is very honest, which oddly isn't always the case. Luckily, this isn't just another "Judd Apatow" movie.