Why I Love You, Man Is The Best ‘Guy’ Movie
Is I Love You, Man the perfect – quote unquote – ‘guy movie’? Totes McGotes.
What makes a ‘guy movie’, traditionally? Is it swearing, lewd and politically incorrect humour, casual misogyny, gratuitous nudity and/or violence, either cartoonish and war-like? Some that come to mind: Slap Shot, Road Trip, Die Hard, Snatch, Wedding Crashers, The Hangover, Commando, American Pie and Gladiator, to name a few. Also, I’d strenuously add, all of these movies are class – okay, maybe not Road Trip.
The distinction itself is a bit pointless, given that anyone can enjoy anything; gender doesn’t dictate taste. That’s why I Love You, Man stands out as a noble contender to the definition; it’s crude, and revolves around the male experience, but has something meaningful to say behind the ‘city slicka’ cringe.
Written and directed by John Hamburg, who previously brought one of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s best performances to life in Along Came Polly, it asks a simple question of its XY audience: do you have a best friend?
Not Peter Klaven – played by Paul Rudd, who’s celebrating his birthday today, April 6 – an L.A. real estate agent recently engaged to Zooey (Rashida Jones). There’s just one problem: while she’ll have an overflowing bridal party, full of friends who she speaks to every day (and spills their secrets under the sheets, as most pals tend to), he’ll have no-one, due to not having any close friends.
He’s never been ‘one of the guys’, awkwardly skirting around the laddish banter in the locker room and whispering ‘classic’, uninitiated in the rituals of forwarded videos of the explicit nature, more comfortable with casual acquaintances and being the understanding boyfriend to the gals.
Cue a crusade of disastrous ‘man dates’, from a gym-going squealer to a misunderstood dinner – ‘It was the taste… of betrayal,’ hilariously declared by Thomas Lennon – until he meets Sydney (Jason Segel), a happy-go-lucky investor who lives the dream of a teenage boy. He even has a man cave equipped with a wanking chariot and zero responsibilities bar his dog. They’re a perfect match.
Best friendships are one of cinema’s most common fantasies; eternal buds out facing child, teen and adulthood, and the world (or the end of it) together. But the sad truth is, some people aren’t as lucky. Not everyone has that brotherly/sisterly relationship with one person, others just float in and out of groups, never having that ultra-close bond. It’s a major reality of life, but not one often chronicled on-screen.
That’s the brilliance of I Love You, Man – we see the wide spectrum of companionship for men: a father whose best friends are a colleague and his son; a group of beer-chugging, poker-playing oafs; a personal trainer who playfully seduces ostensible heterosexuals; and ultimately, as Peter and Syd’s relationship blossoms, without fetishising their bond, a man taking a crash-course in the testosterone-fuelled behavioural norms I, you and others take for granted. One example: casual chats about masturbation.
The embarrassing mishaps are obviously funnier than real life could write – ‘See you later, Joben’, ‘Laters on the menjay’ – but the compassion is genuine. Can you imagine trying to figure out how to have a best friend for the first time as an adult?
I Love You, Man is everything a ‘guy’ movie should be; effortlessly entertaining, but it also speaks to something true about being a man.
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