The big deal about the real world, if you survey any hundred adults, is responsibility. Frequently forgotten are lessons on how to interact, make friends, and forge community. In I Love You, Man Paul Rudd appears as Peter Klaven, the antithesis of recent slacker heroes, an up-and-coming Realtor and the ideal mate. Upon his engagement, however, he realizes he has no quality friends and that he needs them.
What follows is his quest to find a suitable male companion, a quest that resembles closely the search for true love as shown in other movies. Peter goes on a series of man-dates, is set up, is shot down, turns to the internet, is bombarded with advice, is hilariously mistaken (as gay), and when it seems he has failed he questions his self worth. In this way, the plot mirrored that of Must Love Dogs, except trading the oft-trod territory of dating for friendship.
Peter had been reasonably comfortable with his domesticated lifestyle until he looked deeper into why he was without friends. In this regard, the movie looks something like an emasculated Fight Club which is odd since that movie was about the emasculation of men by commercial product. There is even a scene in which Peter slaps a male co-worker.
What he learned, in short, was that he sucked at being a friend. He hadn’t given friendship any priority and had neglected friends to the point that there were none. His personal exploration made clear that his lack of friends was a greater problem than not having anything to do on girls’ night or anyone to stand with him at the altar. It signified his own inadequacies even in those areas which he seemed more or less successful.
Sydney Fife(Segel),as this movie’s Tyler Durden, escorts Peter out of his quiet desperation and ushers him so slightly into the freedom of masculinity. Granted, Fife’s masculinity reaches the extreme of machismo and thus presents its own dilemma. That being said, each character prods the other along toward a more accurate manhood. And that, that is a hopeful portrait of what friendship can be.
Peter neglects his friends, then loses them. Sydney exists on the flip side of this equation, being the last remaining bachelor as all his friends marry and move on. They find themselves friendless, in effect, because the community that they had been part of, with its particular constructs, no longer existed. To make their friendship work, it would be necessary that they develop new constructs to replace the old ones.
One focus of the movie is the divide created when one friend marries and the other remains single. The charge leveled is the same as the answer: things have changed. Adapt! At the onset of their friendship, Sydney and Peter spend excessive hours in Syd’s man cave. If Sydney should encourage Peter’s delinquency, he risks alienating Peter’s girlfriend. They have to assimilate their friendship into the overall context of their lives. Or it won’t work.
Men generally associate caring with weakness and effort with caring. So, when it comes to maintaining or obtaining friendships, most men make zero effort so as to not appear weak. When existing friendships fall apart, as they will, then the big, strong man turns stoic. Their loss, he says. This idea, though, that a man can be tough enough to face the world alone or even with just the help of his girlfriend or wife is patently false. People usually balk at the idea that they need anyone other than their significant other. It sounds so unromantic. The truth is that by design we need our friends too.
We aren’t ourselves without them.