This is the second installment of a feature we call “Harpy Cinematical Society,” in which we watch a movie (new or old) en masse and then replicate for you our subsequent discussions about it.
The subject of today’s discussion is the #2 film of the past weekend, I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd, Rashida Jones, and Jason Segel. If you’ve seen the commercials for it, you pretty much know what it’s about, so without further ado but a brief, hardly-warranted spoiler alert, because if you can’t see everything in this film coming from ten miles away, we just can’t help you…
Becky Sharper: Y’all, can we talk about the previews? I turned to PhDork and said “I guess these are all going to be dude previews.” And I was not disappointed.
sarah.of.a.lesser.god: I was afraid the testosterone in those previews was going to seep off the screen and leech into my popcorn. The Adam Sandler/Seth Rogen vehicle ostensibly had a love interest for Sandler, but it was clearly another, ahem “bromance.” (A word that needs to fucking die.)
BeckySharper: Also, that trailer for the new Sandra Bullock movie rubbed me the WRONG way. Let’s see…we’ve got the bitch stereotype all fired up…She’s older! She’s his boss! He’s forced to pretend they’re engaged! And kiss her! Eww! Hijinks ensue! Because an older woman in authority could never be likeable, let alone loveable or sexually attractive. I kept thinking, “you know, some European filmmaker could take this concept and write a really deep, thoughtful script about the relationship between older women and younger men, and paper marriages, and make it a vehicle for, say, Isabelle Adjani.” But no, this is Hollywood, so we get stuck with Sandra Bullock playing a bitchy stereotype because that’s the only “funny” role that’s available to America’s sweetheart actresses once they’re over 45.
PhDork: So, the previews made me nervous about the feature to come. It had to get better, didn’t it?
sarah.of.a.lesser.god: The movie was actually far more enjoyable than I had expected. Most of that was because of Paul Rudd. His character Pete was perfectly fine, and I appreciated that Rashida Jones’ character, Zooey, was not made out to be some humorless nag/bridezilla. Also, credit must be given to whomever cast Jones, because not only is she talented but mainstream movies like this (especially romantic comedies) almost never ever revolve around interracial relationships.
PhDork: I don’t think most people recognize Jones as bi-racial, anyway. Just incredibly beautiful and charming. Which is kinda nice, in a certain way. Problematic in others…
Becky Sharper: The main quibble I had with the movie was the whole “OMG, you’re getting married, so you have to CHANGE for the wedding!” There was nothing wrong with Paul Rudd’s character. He didn’t like excessive dudeliness, as exemplified by the douchebag real estate agent and the douche-y husband played by the woefully bloated Jon Favereau (sorry to body-snark, but he was unrecognizeable). Can’t blame him for rejecting that ish.
sarah.of.a.lesser.god: However, I just could not understand what was wrong with the fact that he doesn’t have male friends and (OMG!) actually understands and likes hanging out with those mysterious, wily females. Is the lack of a best man really a deal-breaker? Is this so remarkable? And — spoiler alert! — I was rolling my eyes really fucking hard when Jason Segel showed up to pledge his undying (BUT TOTALLY PLATONIC! DON’T WORRY FRAT BOYS IN THE AUDIENCE!) love for Pete during the wedding ceremony. During the ceremony? I think Zooey would have been entitled a major shitfit at that point. Come on, a “friendship pledge” with a guy you’ve known for a really short time gets to interrupt the wedding? Talk about a blatant admission that the movie never gave a shit about Pete and Zooey to begin with.
PhDork: The more I thought about that scene, with Zooey looking on all dewy-eyed at that dude-reunion, the more I thought: this is shit writing.
Becky Sharper: I think we’re meant to like Paul Rudd and think his friendships with women are cool–he was never portrayed as creepy or weird for being so nice to all those women in his office, or sweet to his fiancee’s friends. So why was is such a problem that he didn’t have a male friend? I mean, we’re not supposed to choose our platonic friends based on their genitalia, are we?
PilgrimSoul: It seemed to me like this movie didn’t have a very coherent idea of what “male friendship” is. It seemed to have something to do with talking frankly about sex and also guitars, or, uh, something.
I am totally cool with that, of course. I have no idea what “male friendship” is either or why it is necessarily different from female friendship. But it seemed sort of odd that Rudd’s character’s whole goal in the movie is to find a male friend. I notice that for whatever reason his female friends/co-workers were not acceptable as wedding attendants or whatever (total strangers being acceptable so long as they are graced with the presence of testicles, one supposes).
PhDork: Not sure what to make of Jason Segel’s character’s quirks, either. So he’s got his dudely attitude towards wanking and rock-n-roll and hittin’ on (or fuckin’) hot chix, but he also has a weeny litttle dog, drives a Vespa (which I think is rad, but is supposed read as “faggy”), wears Uggs with shorts, and doesn’t seem to have much homophobic anxiety at all (although the movie managed to squeeze in some gay-panic jokes elsewhere). He’s mega-charming, but kind of gross and sad and weirdly and inappropriately aggressive. I’m all for three-dimensional characters, but I wonder how much of that stuff was just for left in for laughs.
PilgrimSoul: One thing I still don’t get and maybe some of our male audience can enlighten us is how much of “dudeliness” seemed to be associated with child-like behaviour in this movie. I mean, mostly, Rudd and Segel played. They played outside and they played inside and they sometimes acted like crazed dickwads and occasionally had cute moments with a dog.
Meanwhile, I’m not sure what adult women friends do together could be called “playing” most of the time. Oh, I suppose somewhere out there, women spend their time with friends shopping and going for pedicures, but that is hardly the “standard” behaviour one engages in with female friends.
PhDork: In movies, it’s pretty standard, but not true to my friendships, anyway. This wasn’t an Apatow flick (although it was very much in that vein), but I’m just not sure what we’re s’posed to come away with. Segel is the boy-man who sorta-kinda grows up, Rudd is the girl-man who sorta-kinda butches up (by wearing a blue tuxedo and “slappin’ de bass”). The women are thinly sketched (the nice girl, the bitchy girl, the slutty girl), and thin-bodied, too–the dudes are given a lot more leeway there (wait, did I spoil something there? Oh no, of course not…), and while it was diverting in the moment, I’m just not sure what it says about modern masculinity that still needs to be said. Or ever needed to be said, really.
sarah.of.a.lesser.god: One last quibble: I loved Andy Samberg in this. Not quite as crazy about his “fuck-everything-in-sight-including-straight-married-guys” character. The other gay character devolves into a caricature. I understand that the characters in this movie were generally painted with a very, very broad brush, but still left a bad taste in my mouth. And yet it still made me laugh. I need to give my reflexive laughter a stern talking-to.
Well, readers? Have you seen the film? What did you think? Weigh in in comments!