When I first watched it eight years ago, I thought that “I Love You, Man” was horribly obnoxious and terribly unfunny. The jokes, if you could call them that, seemed like rejected one-liners from “Family Guy’s” writers’ room, nonsensical statements and half-phrases that only seem funny because Paul Rudd said them.
I still think that now after watching for the second time just about an hour ago. But there’s a much deeper truth that resonates with “I Love You, Man” that is only accessible at a certain age. No other film in recent memory nails just how hard it is not to make friends but genuine connections in the post-college world, and no film nails just how meaningful and fulfilling those connections can be when they’re finally unearthed.
Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a max level nice guy and real estate developer without strong male friendships. He’s very close with his wife Zooey, played by Rashida Jones, but even their same old inside jokes have left Peter looking outside for a fresh breath of male friendship air. He struggles at first, being rejected by other guys at his gym and having not-so-fruitful blind man dates set up by his brother Robbie (played by Andy Samberg). But a chance encounter at an open house brings Peter into the loose handshake vicinity of Sydney Fife, a boisterous, life-loving guy who would be confused for a Venice Beach migrant if it weren’t for the bungalow in his name a block away.
After a few awkward hangout sessions, Peter and Sydney’s friendship begins to blossom. Sydney is free spirited while Peter is more straight-laced, qualities that endear them to each other but also serve as their biggest source of conflict. They break up, reconcile, and end up happily ever after as best bros.
It’s absolutely predictable but wholly endearing, a careful study of how social interactions take place when society is no longer forcing them. And the best part is “I Love You, Man” does this naturally. Peter and Sydney’s relationship doesn’t feel forced. It happens randomly but naturally and explores the emotional complexities and strange nuances of adult friendship for both men and women in stride. What is the proper amount of money to lend a friend, if any? How does one handle a romantic partner’s jealousy over time spent with said friend? And is there a line that exists that no friend could cross without completely breaking ties with their bro?
“I Love You, Man” doesn’t necessary provide definitive answers to these questions but it at least tries. It’s a joyful, pleasant film, even if it isn’t that funny. It’s an anthem to the mid-30-somethings who witnessed their old college friends depart to new cities and are waiting on their futon for their next venture. But “I Love You, Man” proves that new, unexpected fun times can be waiting around the corner, one just needs the courage to look.