Bromance Gets the A-List Treatment

The formula is the same: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Only in the case of bromance movies like the Paul Rudd/Jason Segel pairing I Love You, Man , it's two straight men competing for each other's affections.

BY Ben Walters

March 17 2009 11:00 PM ET

"Romantic comedies often share the same basic construct," states the press notes for one such popcorn flick, out this Friday. "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back."

The only difference is that this film is about two boys. Well, two men. Two straight men, Peter (Paul Rudd) and Sydney (Jason Segel), whose blossoming friendship does indeed follow the contours of a Hollywood romance and, after various challenges and derailments, is finally cemented at a wedding. The picture's release arguably inaugurates a new genre, or at least sees a long-closeted subgenre finally daring to speak its name. With I Love You, Man -- tag line: "Are you man enough to say it?" -- the bromance is finally out and proud.

Homosociability has been a key component of American cinema from its earliest days, infusing D.W. Griffith's formally trailblazing (and politically obnoxious) The Birth of a Nation and underpinning such bedrock genres as gangster pictures, westerns, and war movies. Film history is littered with palling around of the kind enjoyed by Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains in Casablanca , or James Dean and Sal Mineo in Rebel Without A Cause . The Odd Couple , which reached theaters in 1968, could be seen as a boy-boy twist on the opposites-attract romantic comedy.

But if we take the bromance to be a picture in which an intense, devoted male friendship is at the core of the story and action, then 1969 was year zero. That year, mainstream audiences were treated to not one but two such pictures: both Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and Midnight Cowboy focused on ostensibly platonic partnerships that endured -- unlike those pictures' boy-girl matches -- for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, till death did they part. Stetsons and man-love would not be so closely aligned again until Brokeback Mountain .

Tags: film

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