x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

I Love You, Man

Casting a comedic eye over male friendships, this film fails to transcend cliches that we all know far too well.

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Here we have the simple tale of thirtysomething estate agent Peter Klaven (Rudd), a "sensitive new age man" who connects effortlessly with the emotional nature of women but who realises, on the eve of his wedding, that he doesn't have a single male friend. Thus, while ostensibly searching for a potential best man for his wedding day, Peter begins a journey into the nature of modern masculinity.

It starts with a series of "man dates", in this case a montage of Peter, on the advice of his brother Robbie (Andy Samberg) and fiancée Zooey (Jones), socialising with a ramshackle series of hugely unsuitable friends-to-be - one is too arrogant, one too old, one too small, and so on. Finally however, at an open house for one of Peter's market properties (belonging, according to the script, to Lou Ferrigno - of TV's Incredible Hulk fame), he meets the eccentric and intriguing free spirit, Sydney Fife (Segel). The latter is a poster boy for a new era of hangdog masculinity. Entirely comfortable in his own skin, Sydney can sample Peter's homemade snacks and muse: "This tomato aioli is a revelation!" while only minutes later will terrify a Venice Beach body builder with the profound yell of an unreconstructed alpha male.

The meek Peter, naturally, is hooked and multiple meetings with Sydney ensue. They go to rock concerts, discuss flour tortillas and simply perfect the art of "chillaxing" in Sydney's "chill station" - a converted garage that seems trapped in a state of perpetual adolescence, complete with drum kits, stereo equipment and a plethora of boys'-own gadgetry. Typically, it doesn't take long for Zooey to find this new intense friendship threatening. Peter is ultimately forced to choose between his new, exciting, though not entirely comfortable friendship (Sydney ominously borrows a huge chunk of cash from Peter) and his relationship with Zooey.

The movie ties itself in painful knots trying to satisfy the dramatic logic of its own storyline. Thus, the writer-director John Hamburg, clearly influenced by the comedies of Judd Apatow (Knocked Up), is keen for an audience-pleasing happy ending, but struggles to smother the obsessional undertones of Peter and Sydney's friendship (at times there are echoes of Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bridget Fonda in Single White Female here).

Elsewhere, the female characters are paper thin and often stereotypical. Most of Zooey's circle, for instance, are either hard-faced harridans, or baby-craving emotional wrecks. In a movie this devoted to male friendship, it would have balanced Peter's journey and made his attraction to Zooey more credible, if at least one of the females were three-dimensional.