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Cinema In Focus: ‘I Love You, Man!’

Cultural changes have heightened our struggles with love and friendship between the opposite — and same — sex

1 Star — Disturbing

The confusion caused by the changes in American sexual morality is crudely explored in John Hamburg’s film, I Love You Man! Based on a story by Larry Levin, the struggle with same-sex friendships is shown to be all the more difficult because of the growing complication of same-sex relationships.

The central character in the story is an effeminate young man named Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd). Having always been more comfortable with women rather than men, Peter’s ability to be a close friend with his girlfriend, Zooey (Rashida Jones), is natural. But when Zooey’s girlfriends discover that Peter has no male friends, he overhears their concern and decides to work on forming male friendships.

Peter goes to his homosexual brother, Robbie (Andy Samberg), for help. Seen as a person who understands male relationships, Robbie attempts to describe for Peter what is appropriate in reaching out to a same-sex person in order to form a friendship. But it is clear this is far more complicated than either realized.

After several comic false starts, Peter meets a person at an open house he is hosting as a real estate agent. Opposite to Peter’s effeminate nature, Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) has adopted a hyper-masculinity that has its own isolating outcome. But when they get together in the back garage where Sydney has created a “man cave,” they discover their mutual love for the rock band Rush.

Jamming together, they begin sharing their lives. What happens then is both predictable and difficult as their developing friendship complicates Peter and Zooey’s relationship. One of those complications is the divulging of private information that belongs only to them. Such sharing feels like a betrayal and has those same damaging effects in threatening their engagement.

Clearly deserving its R rating for crude comedy and language, I Love You Man! is a predictable film both reflecting and pushing popular culture’s moral boundaries and lack of same. As such, it is a disturbing film.

Discussion:

» With whom are you most comfortable — same-sex or opposite-sex friendships?

» Media artists identify social changes and explore them in films such as this. What do you think the cultural changes in sexual morality are doing to our friendships? Have these affected you?

» How do you keep your privacy as a sexual person? Do you share with friends or not? Why do you choose to act as you do with your friends?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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