Baity says, You’re nobody til somebody loves you, man

by Glen Baity

Say you meet someone you like, and you want to spend more time with them. Should you call? Ask them to do something? If so, what? Who should call whom? How long should you wait? No two ways about it: Making friends is way, way harder than dating.

You can wince your way through I Love You, Man, but if you’re a man and you’re out of college, you probably already understand why. It’s because adult men don’t make friends. Kids make friends, usually while they’re in school. By contrast, friends are something adult guys just have. And if they don’t, God help ’em, because there are no “rules” for how to make them. There aren’t guidelines. There aren’t even suggestions. Peter (Paul Rudd) is a nice guy in exactly this quandary. Newly engaged to luminous Zooey (Rashida Jones), he has to face an unsettling truth: He has no close male friends. Peter may be the best kind of husband — attentive, generous, kind — but he has no Best Man. Give Peter credit, though: He’s at least proactive. Resolved that his wife’s bridesmaids should have at least one groomsman to accompany them down the aisle, he sets out to find his new BFF via a series of “man dates.” This, if possible, even more uncomfortable than it sounds. After a string of disasters (some funny, some just sad), he’s on the verge of giving up when he meets Sydney (Jason Segel), a financially well-off weirdo who loves weed, cougars and Geddy Lee. Who wouldn’t want to be this guy’s friend? I Love You, Man seems like an innovative concept, and it deserves its due for finding humor in the gap between what men need and what they’re comfortable talking about. But all it really amounts to is a fresh coat of paint on an old, reliable ride, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Director John Hamburg previously helmed Along Came Polly, and this is essentially a romantic comedy in that vein with a wacky friend in place of the wacky love interest. It works thanks to a good cast and a mostly funny script. Segel, a member of the Apatow fraternity who helped make Forgetting Sarah Marshall a surprise hit last year, is a great foil for Paul Rudd’s painfully unhip leading man. Segel has real comedy chops, and he’s perfect for the role of the cool guy who is either insane, lonely or some combination of the two. Rudd, for his part, is one of the most consistent comic actors working today, and I Love You, Man qualifies as another win for him. This character doesn’t drip with sarcasm those he played in Role Models and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and I was pleasantly surprised at how believable he is as a straight man, and a sincerely likeable one at that. He also does awkward exceedingly well — you can’t help but squirm at his tireless, feeble attempts at humor and his knack for botching a punchline. He plays well with a strong supporting cast that includes the alwaysfunny Jaime Pressley, Jon Favreau and JK Simmons. I Love You, Man works best when its characters resemble slightly exaggerated versions of real people. It fails when it ventures into the absurd, as it does in a poorly conceived subplot involving Lou Ferrigno that goes on and on. Also, I understand that this is a film about how discomfiting it can be to search for friends as an adult, but it’s almost too good at embarrassing its main characters. Consequently, in some scenes you may sense a subtle shift from painfully funny to just painful. But If you can survive that, I Love You, Man is a sturdy spin on the standard boy-meets girlrom com. If you’ve ever grappled with making friends after your dorm days, you’ll find something here to relate to.