Screen writer/director John Hamburg, who directed Along Came Polly (2004), has a new screenplay that is a rock solid, romantic comedy. The title says it all.
I Love You, Man is a fun, funny film. This year’s Sideways was shot in Venice Beach, California instead of Napa Valley. It is a film about guys for guys and girls. Two manly men find each other and hard rock, while relearning the must-dos of manhood.
I Love You, Man is a somewhat exploratory, fairly diverse film with many types of men, including gay men, but gay sex is not the subject of this film. The star and co-star are real men climbing the corporate ladder, each in their own way.
Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) and Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) make a perfect match. Peter is an insecure real estate agent, and Sydney is a financial investor who wears surfer shorts with suede boots every day. Coincidently, while California’s real estate market and the financial markets have fallen off the radar, there is no hint of this reality in I Love You, Man.
Peter feels financial success is around the corner and therefore asks his girlfriend Zooey (Jane Curtin) to marry him. They are madly in love. He is so convinced of her rightness that he has already set up a beach wedding in Santa Barbara. Paul is a perfect catch and a near-perfect man (sexually), but he has one flaw that seems unforgivable to his fiancé and her BFFs: he has no best male friend in his life, therefore he has no best man.
Even Peter’s gay brother is best friends with their dad, but the brothers fail to click. He tries to help Peter change his lifestyle by inviting him to the gym. The gym begets only “bad dates” and more learning what not to do on a man date. Los Angeles' real estate is the backdrop, but the real comedy surfaces in Venice Beach, where Sydney has a cottage near the beach and a “man cave” in the backyard.
Peter settles on Sydney Fife after a series of “man date” trials and errors. Peter meets Sydney, the neurotic but frank financial investor, at a swank open house Peter needs to sell to finance his dream.
The audience is taken for a ride on the subsequent dates and bonding these two men unexpectedly experience. The repartee between them is charming and rings true. The film is rated R for the bawdy language and sex talk that occurs between the men, the women, and in mixed company.
Yes, as you might suspect, there is some gay-in-your-face suggestiveness. It is an almost predictable sort of station identification to remind everyone that they are watching a film set in sunny, swinging California. Luckily Hamburg does not pitch the stereotype of life on the beach too hard.
The coastal California setting is the film’s greatest selling point, both for those who have spent time in Venice Beach or just curious about its mystique. The casual setting helps to keep the film on its comedic edge. This romantic comedy maintains its focus on the men, laugh lines, love-life seeking, and male bonding.
The overt sexuality, however, almost derails it. The film was funny, but could have been even funnier with a little less focus and dependence on bathroom and bedroom humor.
Overall, the dialogue is delightful and does not feel forced or self-conscious. The male stars have great comedic timing. The supporting cast is a mélange of characters found in the real estate office or in the gym where Peter tries to “pick up” a male friend without success, but doesn’t waste the comedy they are given to handle. Peter and Sydney have all the surplus chemistry and comedic DNA needed to polish I Love You, Man.
More beach scenes would have been even sweeter, but I still loved this film for its laser-like focus and interesting characters – two characters cute enough to gladly follow to Venice Beach.