Written by: Patrick Kelly, CC2K TV Editor
People laughed. And laughed. And laughed. They laughed so hard they fell out of their seats. Seriously. And, it was all genuine.
All of the girls in the audience let out a collective AWWWWWW, so loud and long you couldn’t make out the next line of dialogue. As well as the line after that. There were literally screams. But the latter lines didn’t matter: the director and writer knew long ago that no one on opening weekend would hear them, much less care about them. They knew that everyone in the audience, even those that didn’t make a noise, would feel that contact and love and energy that can usually only be defined by inopportune opportunities and serendipity. They knew that everyone knew and was aware and ok with what they were ok with, which is completely beautiful. It wasn’t that they embraced it, it’s that they made us realize that we already had. It’s guy love. Between two guys.
Obviously, I Love You, Man is funny. That is the best part. We all hoped it would be funny and it is. No, we all expected it to be funny, and it is. Which is one of the hardest things to do in any form of entertainment (should also be considered: band that you have been waiting your entire life/year to see, only to be floored by what they were actually capable of; and 9th inning walk off home-run) Everyone, well, at least almost everyone, laughed at every scene. They laughed when Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) and Zooey’s (his fiancé in film, Rasida Jones in actual) relationship dissolves because of Peter’s inability to not rock out with a buddy at a Rush concert (probably the first and only time a Rush concert will ever act as the setting for the main apex of conflict in a Hollywood film). They laughed at throw up, and, directly after that, at an unsuspecting gay kiss (one after another, probably also a first). And these were the least funny parts. But, they laughed not because it was supposed to be funny, but because it wasn’t cliché and trite, which is what everyone was hoping it wouldn’t be.
What makes the film effective, which, in turn, is what makes it hilarious, is its ability to pull you into the story on their terms. For example. Major plotline of the film: Peter Klaven and Zooey are getting married. Other major plotline in the film: Peter Klaven meets prospective best friend/man Sidney. You: You, whether you are a guy or girl, don’t care about the fiancé and bride-to-be. Without thought, you become invested, honestly and wholly invested into whether Peter and Sidney are going to make it. Without thought, you actually wonder if he is going to call. Sidney, not Zooey. And after you wonder, you hope. Not that the marriage is succesfully, but whether the frienship is. That’s how you make good comedy: make people feel something real and make them believe and then let them become aware of the fact that they are watching, and rooting, for a budding guy-guy, non-gay romance.
I love Jason Segal (who plays Sidney Fife, the best prospect for a best friend). Clearly not as much as they love each other in the film, but I have loved him for a long time: Since the Forrest Whitaker and Mac-Cheese jokes in Slackers and since the awesome creepy pillow jokes in Undeclared. He’s still just as funny, if not more. But, I have to admit: Paul Rudd steals the show. He takes what he’s been steadily building of off more than 15 years and molds it into something that is so genuine and honest and actually funny that it is surprising to watch on screen. It’s not that you don’t think you should laugh, it’s that you can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t laugh at him. He rattles off his one-liners with confidence and perfect timing, and I can’t think of someone who has made a better use of his first BIG lead in the last 20 years (John Cusack?). He makes something out of nothing, on his own, and incredibly often.
The most frustrating thing about a movie as funny and as good as I Love You, Man, is that, for most, the feeling is fleeting. It’s gone before you check the websites on Monday to see how many other people have lost the feeling. It’s gone before you get to enjoy it, it’s gone until you get to enjoy it again when it becomes vintage or forgotten. But, I don’t take one laugh lightly. If something is funny and everyone laughs when they are expecting to laugh, than it’s an unbelievable success. It’s more than a success, because going up against expectations and exceeding them is extraordinary (exemption: stand-up, reason: booze). Even, and especially, for a movie. It’s not about how people react; it’s about how they involuntarily respond to a situation they have knowingly put themselves in. It’s about the fact that everyone in the theatre was expecting to laugh, maybe harder than they’ve laughed since Christmas (or the last time they watched an Apatow film). And they laughed harder than that.
Funny men and women are occupying and selling out theatres. Genuine, really funny men and women are justifying big studio budgets and full Hollywood launches.
All is right, at least for now. Because we know at least one more of these will get made.