20 April 2009

Bromance Hour

"That young man fills me with hope. And some other emotions that are weird and deeply confusing."
Zapp Brannigan, Futurama

It's a tale as old as time. Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Girl likes boy. Boy and girl hook up. Boy meets boy. Become firm friends. Boys form slightly homoerotic relationship. Girl looks on sort of disapprovingly.

This is dubbed a "bromance", and it's a phenomenon widely undocumented in Hollywood films until recently. The first real explicit bromance in broadcast media is really between JD and Turk from Scrubs, a pair so (possibly) gay that they even broke into rapturous song about their guy love in the musical episode of that show. With the recent rash of Apatow comedies covering real emotion and the like, and Superbad touching upon bromances briefly, the bromance has generally become a character device more frequently in use by producers, one way or the other. That's not to say homoeroticism hasn't always existed in these manly relationships in cinema- it's just been unintentional at times. There's a longstanding school of thought that any pair of buddies in a Western basically represents a homoerotic relationship. Western fans predictably respond tho this kind of talk with a speedy "GTFO" and started covering their eyes and screaming bloody murder when Brokeback Mountain rolled around. And that's outside Texas...

I'm not a homosexual man myself, but it occurs to me that there were two major bromance movies over the Easter break and that someone, for the sake of cinematic science, should compare the two critically. One of which is deliberately focused on a bromantic relationship, and the other being seemingly unaware of the fact that its central characters are engaged in a bromance, verging on actual homosexual tension. Either that or the producers are intentionally playing a big joke on every guy who's happy to see a big macho and totally "straight" movie on the screen.

The first is of course, I Love You, Man. This film stars Paul Rudd- the one who's in... well just about every film like this one- as Peter Klaven, a man who's never really made a guy friend and thus is naturally out of sorts attempting to find a best man for his wedding. Enter Jason Segel as Sydney Fife, who's more or less perfect for him. Not in a soulmatey, let's-start-a-family kind of way, more in the Rush-is-freakin'-awesome-so-let's-jam sense of the word.

Now, the screening I went to was somewhat marred by the presence of one of those loud young women right behind me, (wow, I actually felt like that sentence aged me). Fair enough, it's a comedy- you're expected to laugh. On the other hand, there's laughing hysterically at bits that are, at best, chuckleworthy. I'm pretty sure she orgasmed twice during the film. Not to mention all the random exclamations of "ohmyGod". I mention this mostly because it gives you an idea of how funny this film was. Paul Rudd is in danger of overexposure at the best of times, so it's nice to see him mixing it up here rather than doing the aloof, sarcastic bloke that he usually brings to the table in these buddy comedies. His klutzy, awkward performance is charming enough to differentiate itself from say... Role Models or Knocked Up. Jason Segel steals the show of course, and is just as brilliant as he was in Forgetting Sarah Marshall- seriously can't wait to see this guy's take on a Muppet movie, because it'll be frigging awesome.

The two leads aside though, everyone else is fairly bland. The script doesn't accomodate much for Rashida Jones as Peter's oft-fellated fiancee (it'll make sense when you see it, and how often will I get to use that as a description?), and the always-brilliant JK Simmons is more or less wasted as Peter's dad. Being as it is a bromance though, it's more or less essential that this film hinges on the two lead performances. They both acquit themselves marvellously, and the script is very, very funny. Judd Apatow wasn't involved in the making of this film (incredible for any American comedy film post-2004), but it draws on all the best observational parts of his films and makes for a very funny night out at the cinema.


And now we move onto the other big bromance in cinemas over the Easter break. It is of course the "whole-gang's-back" money grabbing sequel- the third sequel, no less- Fast and Furious. I've already mentioned that Seth Rogen's Superbad covers a bromance in some ways, so it's saying something that even he thought this was gay enough to parody on Saturday Night Live with a sketch called The Fast and the Bi-Curious.

If you've watched that video, that's more or less the whole story element of the film.

You can taste the longing... :s

Before we get into the review side of things, I should point out that I'm not a homophobe, and I certainly didn't hate the film because of the homoerotic element. I hated it because it was vapid, silly and about eight years too late to even be relevant. For those who don't know, this is the first time that heterosexual life-partners Brian O'Connor and Dom Toretto have reunited on-screen since 2001. They did appear in one sequel each since then though, with Toretto popping up at the end of the third one for a cameo. Besides the obvious realisation on both actors' parts that they didn't quite rocket to fame like they expected when they turned down that first sequel, I found it hilarious that the first film was called The Fast and the Furious- were we supposed to believe this one is more stream-lined or something because of eradication of "the" from the title? Presumably we'll see a reunion Narnia film in eight years' time called Lion, Witch and Wardrobe.

So yeah, my main objection with this film is that it's pointless. Whatever I rank this, you should add a star out of five if you're a fan. Because fans of the series to date might enjoy it, but that doesn't make it any less a money-making exercise for the producers. Generally, movies are made with the aim of making money, but the vast majority of them end up being entertaining. Instead there was a good opening five minutes or so, and a fun final minute. There's 90 minutes or so of rubbish in between, and given how a condensed version of that opening was basically released as a trailer, I'd feel a little ripped off if I'd paid to see this, especially in these troubled times for the economy. So there's only that last minute and then an hour and a half of unintentionally hilarious dialogue like "Do you ever feel like you're pretending to be someone you're not?". There are a couple of good action sequences/chases in the middle, but nothing we haven't seen before in better films, lending to the general feeling that Fast and Furious is just derivative of what's come before.


That's the end of the Bromance Hour here on the ol' blog. Normal service will resume with individual reviews from the next post. All those films I mentioned at the end of the last post really. To sum up, see I Love You, Man rather than Fast and Furious. To play us out, the song that might as well have played over the credits of Fast and Furious...

Until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch,

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