One of the promises I made to myself when I started The Legionnaire is that I would not review pornography. I almost broke that promise. I had been seeing Blonde pop up on Netflix, as well as some other film sites. Given my history background, I was curious how they would portray one of the more complex characters Hollywood has ever produced in Marilyn Monroe (Ana de Armas). Twenty minutes in, I almost turned it off. I knew Monroe had a tortured life, but I was not prepared for seeing her mother (Juliane Nicholson) attempt to drown her in the bathtub as a child, while also nude. It did not get any better from there, and I stopped watching before an hour had passed. That is the last time I ignore an NC-17 rating. In need of something more lighthearted to cleanse the palate, I turned to I Love You, Man (2009).
In I Love You, Man, Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) is an up-and-coming real estate agent with his eyes on some prime land near downtown Los Angeles. He takes his girlfriend, Zooey Rice (Rashida Jones), to view it, offering a parcel of it so that she can expand her own business. That is not all he is offering this night. On the heels of the expansion proposal comes his marriage proposal, to which she eagerly says yes. This eagerness spills over into their car ride home as she calls her two best friends, Denise (Jaime Pressly) and Hailey (Sarah Burns), to tell them of her engagement. On the heels of their bubbly excitement, Zooey presses Peter to start calling his friends to tell them the good news. In thinking of his acquaintances, he cannot come up with anyone he must tell right away. It makes him realize that he does not have any close male friends. This is underscored for him when, after coming home early from fencing club (which, is that really a thing?) he overhears Zooey with her friends wondering who it is that he will be asking to be his best man for the wedding. It is a question he cannot answer. Seeking advice, he turns to his gay brother Robbie (Andy Samberg), who is a trainer at a gym. He sets Peter up with a few guys to hang out with, but none of them are real friend material. His mother, Joyce (Jane Curtin), even arranges for Peter to have dinner with a gay man. Yes, this is all as awkward as it sounds because Peter is not a homosexual, though he treats everyone with respect. He had all but given up on the notion of finding somebody who could stand for him at the upcoming ceremony until, while giving an open house for Lou Ferrigno’s (as himself) swanky home, he meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel). This listing is key to his future, but he ends up exchanging business cards with Sydney. Later, with Zooey’s encouragement, Peter calls Sydney and arranges for them to have a drink, which becomes a night of fish tacos. Sydney plays it cool, but Peter is nervous because he hopes that this is the beginning of a real friendship that he has never had. He is about to get more than a friend. Particularly because Denise’s husband Barry (Jon Favreau) has guy’s night, giving her a chance to hang out with her own friends, Zooey is keen to see Peter do the same. As such, she is accepting of the two of them hanging out more frequently, even with the deadline for the wedding fast approaching. It also begins to affect his work, with Lou Ferrigno believing that Peter is not doing his best to sell his house as it remains on the market. At first, Zooey is going along with these developments. She even tries to get Sydney to ask out her perpetually single friend Hailey. This ends disastrously when the four of them go golfing and somehow Hailey hits Sydney with a golf ball. It begins to unravel a little more when Sydney makes an impromptu speech at their engagement party and suggests, basically, that Zooey is not doing everything she can to please Peter. What is a mild annoyance becomes an area of concern for Zooey when she attends a Rush concert with Peter and Sydney. The two of them gyrate and rock out to each other and it is as if Zooey is invisible. As things get tense, Sydney asks a question for which Peter does not have an immediate answer: why is he marrying Zooey? Even though Peter and Sydney are confidants, so too are the bride and groom to be. Hence, Peter brings up the question, though at the worst possible moment. That moment is when Peter admits that he loaned Sydney $8,000 for an investment. Given the way his Ferrigno deal seems to be going away and their imminent marriage, it does not seem like the best time to bring up such doubts. Understandably angry and hurt, Zooey leaves to stay with Denise. The next day on his way to work, as big as day Peter could see the billboards all over town advertising Peter as a real estate agent in varying levels of inappropriateness. Horrified, Peter goes to Sydney’s house to end their friendship. Zooey had seen the advertisements, too, and is a bit more understanding when Peter comes to apologize. With everything forgiven, they move forward with their wedding. On the appointed day, Zooey calls Sydney to come to the ceremony, and he accepts as he is on the way to the venue anyway. Sydney apologizes to Peter at the altar, and Peter finally has his best man.
If you watch I Love You, Man as a romantic comedy between Peter and Sydney, you will find that it is a pretty familiar film. It hits all the same beats, and it has a predictable ending, but the two people falling in love are not gay for each other. So, there is a slight twist. As a Catholic film reviewer, it reinforces the concept of being in community with one another. I am in a tricky place with this concept. I am discerning consecrated single life, and I feel quite fulfilled at the moment. At the same time, the Bible is pretty clear that it is not good for man to be alone. That is within the first chapters of Genesis, and why God created woman. The key thing is being in relationship. Even the famous desert fathers of early Christianity who were renowned hermits did not live completely alone. Orders of male and female religious live in community with one another because these like-minded people help one another to grow in closeness to God. As strange as it might seem from a film like this one, growth is the main theme. Peter is a timid fellow when he meets Sydney, and Sydney is able to get Peter to be more expressive. Conversely, Peter shows Sydney how to be more of a gentleman. In other words, they learn to tone down the more excessive aspects of their characters. When you live as religious orders do, this same thing happens. You also do not necessarily have to be a monk or a nun. The overwhelming majority of my friends are practicing Catholics, and I am happy to say I have learned a lot about the Faith from them. I pray that you have friends that can also bring out the best in you.
Admittedly, I avoided I Love You, Man for a long time. I recall the preview, and nothing about it seemed interesting. It is still as predictable as I stated, but it is a movie that works. I do not regret one iota making the switch from Blonde to I Love You, Man. Hence, with one review you are getting a double recommendation, made all the more handy as they are both on Netflix. Do not see Blonde, but watch I Love You, Man. Now excuse me, I have to get to Confession as soon as possible.
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