Ezra’s review of “I Love You, Man” reveals that it’s probably as stupid a movie as you feared it would be, and stuffed with all the worst problems that don’t ever seem to get fixed, no matter how much the more critical audience members grumble.
Paul Rudd’s character goes through an actual arc that ends up proving itself a circle, but no one else does. Jason Segal’s identified problems — relentless immaturity, an inability to form lasting attachments with women, and an increasingly isolated existence as his friends age and he doesn’t — are left totally unresolved. The female characters managed to be more unidimensional than in most of these films, which is bad for the movie but the sort of negative achievement that borders on being cinematically significant.
There was an idle moment where Marc and I considered going to see “I Love You, Man” on Friday night, because Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones earn many hearts of comic timing love around here, but after being disappointed by one Dude Nation romantic comedy after another, we decided to risk it by seeing “Adventureland”, which at least seemed like it could break the pattern, but was, it turned out, an even more inexcusable piece of sexist, self-indulgent dreck than anything the Apatow & Friends factory could put out. At least “I Love You, Man” is trying to grapple with a slightly different theme than some dumpy dude drilling a personality-free but very thin woman we’re all supposed to find charming because of her shiny, shiny hair. And that’s the best we can hope for, because women can also be shrieking, statusbabywedding obsessed harpies who trade that shiny hair and sexy butt for statusbabywedding.
The previews before “Adventureland” made it clear that Hollywood has only begun to mine the potential of domestic/romantic angst fueled by a heavy dose of sexism, but this time for the Gen Xers, which feels refreshing because there’s a lot more blunt dick jokes and smirking irony. By the time the 4th preview was over, I leaned over to Marc and whispered, “Watching all that, even I’m beginning to hate women.” I think it was the ad for “The Hangover” that did me in. Since it’s a movie about the bachelor party gone terribly wrong, you know that the first woman you encounter is the clueless and probably shrieky bride-to-be and her pussy-whipped groom. But it’s not just these stock characters, nor the stock characters of a bunch of dudes who are man-children who go to Las Vegas to escape the stifling world of women. There also seems to be not one, but two women that marry drunk man-children in the course of the film, because women are apparently so desperate for the ring from any random dude that two guys who are on the town could get married more easily than they could get laid. There was also an ad for “I Love You, Man”, an ad for a movie that looks painfully sentimental called “Away We Go“, and perhaps most unforgiveably, an ad for Judd Apatow’s new movie “Funny People“, which doesn’t really look that funny. The ad reveals that Adam Sandler is a middle-aged comedian who has terminal cancer, and then it reveals that he doesn’t even die from it, which takes away the sole reason to see a movie about Adam Sandler where you’re supposed to feel sorry for him. There’s ladies in it, of course—the one who “got away”, forcing the Nice Guy® Adam Sandler to get her back from her jerkwad husband. I cannot even begin to convey how sappy the ad for this movie was, which made me long for the days of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, which had the good sense to avoid being sappy and tell a somewhat original story with characters that largely felt like real human beings, and was actually funny.
Is it too much to ask for funny comedies that don’t insult your intelligence or try to sentimentalize at you until you give in? The Apatow factory really started to coast downhill with “Knocked Up”, which was intelligence-insulting but at least was hysterical and didn’t have Adam Sandler in it. I actually caved and rented “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, and ended up being annoyed by it. It was probably made worse because the writer gave Sarah a realistic and sympathetic reason for her cheating on then unceremoniously dumping the main character, but then they caved and decided to humiliate her and play it off like she’s just a desperate whore, because it’s just that bad to leave a guy because he’s a withholding slob who treats you like dirt.
I like the idea of fluffy romantic comedies, I promise. Some nights you just want to pop some popcorn (or drink beer at the Alamo Drafthouse) and laugh and not think too hard, and in theory, these movies should do it. But overblown sentimentality that often reads as if the producers are being defensive about their own choices (or being defensive on behalf of the audience) pulls me out of the moment, and sexist stereotyping of women as either shrieking harpies, personality-free fucktoys, or Manic Pixie Dream Girls makes me wonder if the movie is trying to aggressively run me off by insulting me.
I really like going to the movies, seriously. I just wish I had more reason to do it. Lately, I feel like TV offers more, because when you find something really good, you can watch it on and off for weeks and even months.
Okay, “Superbad” was pretty awesome, despite having many of these problems. It was just so funny it was hard to care.
*Until the next one sucks me in with advertising that makes me think this one is going to be so different than the last one.