Saturday, 20 June 2009

I Love You, Man (2009)

Go on, shout it to the world

The quintessential Judd Apatow movie without the involvement of Judd Apatow, I Love You, Man takes Apatow's 'bromantic' twist on classic Hollywood romantic comedy to its exquisite, logical conclusion, while employing Apatow's stable of actors and co-directors and refining his usual tricks of the trade to one-up the genre's creator by a fair bit.

I love you, man is both a traditional romantic comedy and a bromantic comedy at the same time. The wedding plans of the lucky groom to be (Paul Rudd), having gotten past the all-important proposal to the luckier bride to be (Rashida Jones), stutters on the couple's realisation that the groom has a grand total of zero close male friends in his life and needs to race against time to produce a proper best man for the wedding. I don't know why this is even an issue of social embarrassment, but time for misadventures in male bonding, I say!

While in general the bromance movie does not allow the groom to run away with the best man, the shenanigans in this movie come very close to this. Its innovation: trashing out the bromantic genre's vague unease with the homosocial/homosexual ambiguity, along with the but this is-a-macho-movie uncomfortably comic moments where the ambiguity rears its head. Replacing all this is a willingness to acknowledge and explore the homosocial/homosexual ambiguity as part of a feel-good comedy, to build into comfortably comic punchlines.

Here, it is achieved through the 'serial date' structure of the movie and the screen chemistry between Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. Paul Rudd, of course, is a comic actor who has been playing the feminine coded male stock character since The Object of my Affection, and part of the intertextual comedy comes from just how female coded his "best girlfriend with a dick a girlfriend would want" character here is.

Like Anthony Perkins's character in The Trial, Paul Rudd acts almost so instinctively guilty that some people might be inclined to watch this as a subtle gay comedy.

As a result of the more relaxed, less hung up storytelling attitude of Hamburg and his collaborators, I Love You, Man is the least macho of bromantic comedies to date. Its comedic sensibilities should in fact appeal to a much broader audience than say Superbad: this one goes easy for movie watchers of all genders and persuasions.

An earlier version of this review was published at incinemas on 18 June 2009

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