Elevate Difference

I Love You, Man / Duplicity

I can’t remember the last time that I went to the theater and saw two movies in one day. For that matter, I can’t remember the last time that I was even able to afford that; I live in Manhattan, land of the thirteen dollar movie ticket. However, there were two recently released flicks that I was absolutely dying to see. I also have two dramatically different friends with dramatically different tastes who wanted me to accompany them to two dramatically different movies.

I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segal, is a hilariously raunchy portrait of a passionate “bromance.” I found this movie to be a surprisingly intelligent take on how difficult it is for some men to form intimate same-sex friendships in modern America. Written and directed by John Hamburg, I Love You, Man presents the audience with a straight male protagonist who makes no bones about not adhering to traditional masculinity.

For anyone who was comatose during the late 1990’s, Paul Rudd played Alicia Silverstone’s socially conscious stepbrother/love interest in the blockbuster teen flick, Clueless. Rudd makes somewhat of a reprise of that iconic role, showing us what a thirty-something year-old Josh would be like if he’d scrapped his plans for law school and started selling houses.

Peter Klaven (Rudd) is a repressed real estate agent who becomes engaged to Zooey (Rashida Jones). After realizing that he has always been a “girlfriend guy,” Peter sets out on a series of disastrous “man-dates”. (Reno 911! alums Joe Lo Truglio and Thomas Lennon offer scene-stealing performances as two of Peter’s rejects.) He eventually meets Sydney (Segal) at an open house. Sydney, a shaggy beach bum who has lost his buddies to marriage, children, and maturity, is also looking for another man to hang out with. Sparks fly between the two men and they quickly become inseparable.

This causes a wrinkle in his relationship with Zooey. While Zooey is initially thrilled that Peter is branching out socially, she begins to resent the amount of time the two men spend together. This culminates in an argument that nearly derails the engagement.

A movie like this could have gone horribly wrong if it had been placed in the wrong hands. However, Peter’s painfully dorky malapropisms, Segel’s off-beat charm and excellent comic timing, and more or less believable storyline rescue what could have been nothing more than a series of obligatory gross-out jokes. Projectile vomit, dog poop, and masturbation have never been funnier.

A superb supporting cast only strengthens the movie. J.K. Simmons, Jane Curtin, and an unusually restrained Andy Samberg have some of the best lines as Peter’s lovably quirky family. Jaime Pressly and a nearly unrecognizable Jon Favreau get in on the act as the perpetually bickering married couple. Carla Gallo is a little one-note as the desperate single friend, but even she gets in a few zingers.

I Love You, Man wasn’t a perfect movie, but it defied all of my expectations and put a smile on my face. Don’t wait for the DVD, kids.

I watched Duplicity with a second friend who turned up her nose at I Love You, Man. Duplicity , starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, was funny in a radically different way. Instead of crude sexual humor, Duplicity's comedy rests on the witty repartee between its leads.

Ray Koval (Owen), an MI6 agent, aggressively hits on cool-as-a-cucumber Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) at a Fourth of July party in Dubai. They hook up and Claire, an agent for the CIA, steals a file from Ray after drugging him. Haunted by the mistake, Ray confronts Claire in Rome two years later. The two hook up again, this time spending three days together in a hotel room. After a squabble in which Claire accuses Ray of making her miss an important flight on purpose, the two come up with an overly clever scheme to pull off a huge scam so that they can leave the spy game for good.

The two “go private”, landing jobs in the corporate espionage business. Roberts works as a mole, spying for Dick Garsik (Paul Giamatti channeling Kenny “Pig Vomit” Rushton from Private Parts) while feigning loyalty to Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson). The two men hate each other, doing just about anything to screw each other over. That explains Dick Garsik’s decision to hire Ray to find out about a new top-secret project that Tully’s company is developing. Meanwhile, Ray and Claire play their employers in the hopes of determining what the product is so that they can intercept it and sell it off to yet another competitor. However, the two don’t trust each other. After all, the relationship (if you want to call it that) started off with a betrayal and the two are absolute masters at keeping secrets.

The double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses soon become tedious. As Roger Ebert put it, “Duplicity is entertaining, but the complexities of its plot keep it from being really involving: When nothing is as it seems, why care?" I agree with him wholeheartedly on that, though I disagree with his claim that the two leads generate “fierce electricity.” Although Owen and Roberts are both highly skilled actors, their chemistry was off. I had a hard time believing that their characters felt any type of attraction to each other. Roberts was miscast. The casting director should have gone with someone who could convey a cold calculating inscrutability, bankability be damned. (Catherine Zeta-Jones did a remarkable job of that in the vastly underrated

Written by: Ebony Edwards-Ellis, March 21st 2009

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