I recently caught a feature on NPR about the emergence of gays and lesbians in the mainstream. The intriguing piece examined the effects of Will & Grace and Ellen DeGeneres (as both a sitcom performer and a talk show host) on the straight male segment of society, long considered the most resistant element to our evolving and dynamic culture.
A week before that I read a New York Times profile on Rupert Everett and his struggle with breaking into leading roles following the full media disclosure of his homosexuality. Everett, after starring as Julia Roberts’ gay best friend in My Best Friend’s Wedding (and linking cinematically to Madonna in The Next Best Thing as her gay pal and baby daddy), was excluded from the heroic-romantic leads and continues to remain on the margins. Yet hetero-male love is in full bloom, and it seems that a huge amount of credit belongs to filmmakers Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow. Smith and Apatow have presented a whole generation of pre- and post-metrosexual men who have forsaken the products and the preening for a more genuine expression of themselves and their comfort with each other.
In this guyverse, it is perfectly acceptable to embrace, kiss and discuss the most private and perverse aspects of the body and its functions. This level of intimacy in its way is more familiar than the socially accepted bonds between women because it comes across as thoroughly casual.
I Love You, Man is the latest movie to test the Apatow/Smith waters. Into this free man-loving world we encounter Peter (Paul Rudd), a newly and quite happily engaged guy with a beautiful fiancé (Rashida Jones) and absolutely no male friends. His gay brother (Andy Samberg) and his father are best friends, but Peter has no one and seemingly has had no need until now, when he realizes he has no best man.
Everyone sends Peter off on a quest to find a new best friend that too neatly mirrors the travail of dating. Rather than romancing the stone, Peter’s romancing the bone, and it’s not nearly as funny as it should be. Opposites attract as the buttoned-up Peter has a meet-cute encounter with the stereotypically bohemian Sydney (Jason Segal). Man-love ensues, but the movie plays out like the extended pilot for a situation comedy on track for a semi-successful run because it hits all of the expected laugh lines. It is comfortable and predictably humorous without being bust-a-gut funny. Maybe there’s nothing left to mine in this material. Maybe we’ve reached a stage where guy love is passé. Either way, there’s just not as much big love, man. Grade: C (tt stern-enzi)