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The Statesman

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    I Love You, Man?

    There is something to be said about the power of cinema to ask timely questions — questions that may or may not be comfortable for the audience to answer or are simply not asked all that often. Film can go a number of routes in the asking, taking the directions of high drama or — ever that bane of the Academy — comedy.

    Comedy is, of course, a powerful vehicle to point out any social shortcoming or slight.

    So picture this: Suppose you were to watch a comedy that pokes fun at the idea of “man love,” or rather the idea of genuine love and affection between two heterosexual men.

    Backed by stereotypes, heterosexual men are socially conditioned to be uncomfortable with their own sexualities. Case in point: The fact that there are rules for straight men to avoid seeing another man’s “member” while urinating. Awkward, no? It might even make you uncomfortable thinking about it.

    So you might ask the question, “Well, what’s the big deal? I happen to enjoy sitting down with my guy friends, having a few drinks and fist-bumping.” Of course, and that’s fine. But what about going out on a man-date?

    The meaning behind man-dates and man-love is what the new picture, “I Love You, Man” attempts to reveal. With the simple tagline of “Are you man enough to say it?” the movie hopes to address the relative awkwardness a regular guy might feel about trying to be friends with another typical guy in relating, and figuring out how to behave in a “guy way.”

    “I Love You, Man,” which will be released March 20, introduces the audience to a cast of characters dedicated to defining what man-love is, aside from the fart and masturbation jokes of course.

    Peter Klaven, played by Paul Rudd (Vanity Fair’s next Jack Lemmon), is a man about to marry his girlfriend Zooey, played by Rashida Jones of “The Office” fame. But, being the kind of guy who focuses more on his girlfriends than guy friends, he lacks the best friend who could stand next to him as his best friend. So off Peter goes to find that friend, leading him onto those man-dates mentioned earlier.

    Eventually, he accidentally crosses paths with Sydney Fife, played by Jason Segel, and the two hit it off, setting off a “bromance” for the ages.

    The idea of a bromance may not be new, but it definitely creates the kind of discussion as to whether or not two straight men would be comfortable holding hands. At the press junket held at Le Parker Meridien in Manhattan on March 12, the actors and crew sounded off on what man-love really means.

    “I actually think that this is a very topical, modern dilemma,” said Rashida Jones. “And in a weird, like, sociological way I’m glad that we’re confronting it because I think its really hard for men to find friends or to reach out to friends without feeling like they’re compromising their machismo.”

    That women are men’s betters in terms of intimacy is not lost on the film. Throughout the movie, Peter’s interactions with guys are compared to his relationships with other women and women’s relationships with each other.

    In every way, women seem far more capable of sharing, caring, and relating in personal and profound ways, so much so that it disturbs Peter. How would you feel about your fiance telling her girlfriends about when and how you have sex?

    “Here’s the thing,” began Jaime Pressly, who played Zooey’s angry friend Denise. “Women can go and hold hands, link arm in arm and walk down the street. We can drink out of the same straw. We can have slumber parties and sleep in the same bed. We can go to the movies together, and you know, we can dress and change in front of each other and it’s not a big deal, right?

    “Men can change in front of each other in a locker room kind of way, and they can go sit and watch a movie together, but they’re not gonna drink out of the same straw. And if they fall asleep or if they wake up, I should say, in the same bed, its because they got really drunk and passed out. And they wake up and they go…”

    And as she said this, she raised her eyebrow in the shocked and confused way one would make after maybe getting spanked in public.

    “You know what I mean? …It’s just a different thing, you know? But I don’t think there’s anything wrong, and I do think that men should loosen up a bit because… Give each other a hug for god’s sake.”

    “To me, the movie wasn’t just about guy friendship,” director John Hamburg said. “It was just about friendship. And so with like Rashida’s character and her relationship with Jaime Pressly and Sarah Burns who play Haley and Denise, I wanted to explore what I have observed and thought and some ideas I had about female friendships. Their story-line was actually almost equally important to me as the guys’ cause — I just wanted to explore all facets of what it means to be a friend.”

    Writer Larry Levin, who came up with the idea, referenced a time when he was in Los Angeles with his wife and he met a “really funny and really smart” guy, but not having the guts to ask for his number, he became the guy who got away.

    “It’s harder,” he said. “To make friends and have deeper relationships as you get older.”

    As for Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, the two were hardly philosophical about the film, relating to their characters as the kind of friends they’ve always had and still have in their careers.

    “I think,” said Paul, “that most of my friends [in] my entire life… we’ve been able to wear our hearts on our sleeves a little bit and talk about stuff that might not be considered macho.”

    At the end of the day, the comedy of the movie is how honestly it renders the awkwardness of trying to just make a friend. And however hard it may be, man or woman, making friends is natural and one of the most important aspects of life.

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