Mae Zing, with support from best friend and fellow burlesque performer Ruby Mimosa, praises the progressive way in which I Love You, Man stands out from other romantic (and “bromatic”) comedies by finding comfort in its awkwardness.
When I suggested that my best friend Ruby and I review the epic bromance that is the 2009 film I Love You, Man, I simply thought it was going to be a fun excuse to re-watch and write about some fairly lowbrow art that we have bonded over in the past. What I did not expect was the introspective wormhole I would fall into afterward regarding the vital importance of friendship and all the positive effects of bro’ing down with your friends when life asks you to step up and actively participate.
Simply put, this movie is a timeless classic. The plot is a twist on the classic romantic comedy, with a compelling message: a healthy support system isn’t complete with simply one, solitary emergency contact. The sheer volume of recognizable faces in the cast is a testament to successful support system. Aside from the three stellar leads—Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, and the hilarious Rashida Jones—it’s packed with an incredible supporting cast (Andy Sandberg, J.K. Simmons, Lou Ferrigno), and smaller but hilarious cameos that include a grip of comedic talent, some of which you miss if you’re not paying attention to every person standing frame in a given scene (Jay Chandrasekhar of Broken Lizard, Larry Wilmore).
How frequently have we seen films dedicated to what a human (normally a woman, but I digress on the gender tropes that continue to plague the romantic comedy genre) does to rebuild themselves after a breakup? This film shows it’s important to have a variety of supportive friends, even during what is presumably the most joyous occasion in your life: your wedding. Scanning the countless number of wedding-centric movies I’ve seen, all make some sort of reference to a minor conflict on determining the guest list of the event. In reality, the guest list an easy agreement that usually resolves itself due to budgetary restraints. I Love You, Man tackles a much more real, and often contentious wedding planning argument between couples: the ridiculous notion of desired symmetry of the bridesmaid and groomsmen rosters. As far as relational comedy goes, I can vouch from personal experience as an introvert, once married in the mid-late 2000s to a much more extroverted individual, that the discussion of this roster was a much more haughtily debated topic than how extended the family guest list is allowed to get. I Love You, Man beautifully uses this ridiculous societal stipulation of symmetry within the wedding party, sending Peter on a scouting journey to fill the vacancies in his roster because he has devoted his life to solitary hobbies and his steady stream of girlfriends.
Peter’s friendship/groomsmen scouting produces delightfully awkward “first date” scenarios, some sweetly tender moments (the kind, elderly gentleman he was unintentionally catfished into a diner date using a dating app for friendship) along with some really great advice about showing up honestly in relationships—flaws, quirks and all the awkward—and the benefits of primal scream therapy. In re-viewing this, we were surprised (but shouldn’t be, given its clever writing style) at how the much film successfully weaves gay male characters into a film about hetero “bromance” without any glaring homophobia. In fact, the comedy of errors between Doug (Thomas Lennon) and Peter is a delightfully funny example of the long list of supporting cast and cameo appearances that successfully dance all over the classic awkward interaction, all without falling into homophobic or misogynistic tropes. Even Sidney’s cavalier interactions and pick-up attempts with the women in Peter’s office (just before Segel’s hilarious Hulk impersonation) are relatively polite and lighthearted and, if thrown my way in today’s society, wouldn’t send me into an angry feminist She-Hulk rage (something I’m not afraid to do, but appreciate when I don’t have to).
I Love You, Man makes excellent use of the awkward moments between friends and strangers and illustrates that “fitting in” or “finding your tribe” is really just about putting your most awkward self out there and looking around the room for those that don’t cringe or judge when you put your foot in your mouth, intentionally or otherwise. Sometimes life can be a series of unfortunate events, like misspoken cool nicknames, misread social cues, or unexpected projectile vomiting. The people that stick around and laugh at life’s follies with you, those are your people. I love relational humor and Paul Rudd is an expert in subtle, awkward exchange. Rudd has mastered the ability to make audiences uncomfortable, but because they relate to his restrained missteps as opposed to some of the more notable uncomfortable comedians that rely on the character to have a loud and clear break with reality (i.e. shouting about a bomb on an airplane in Meet the Parents or the giant-cookie boxing freak-out scene in Bridesmaids). In general, we as a society love to watch an absolute train wreck for shock value, but I find it refreshing to watch a character dance with awkward rather than being forced to endure someone dump a cement truck of cringe into a scene.
Overall, this film’s writing has aged well, and its cast gives delightful performances while delivering an important message about the value of friendship. Much like the friendships formed in the 1hr-45min runtime, its most important lesson is a humanizing one: We’re all awkward, all of us, and that simple fact is not just something to accept and “live with”; it’s actually a gift. It’s a ripe fruit that never turns. If picked and turned into comedy, it stands the test of time.
Now that I’ve over-interpreted a bromantic comedy, I’ll leave you with my most “bro” thought while reviewing: Paul Rudd (who hasn’t aged a day since Clueless, the first picture I have of him in my spank bank) in a navy suit could absolutely tap this anytime.
— Mae Zing