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What Guys Talk About When They Talk About Girls

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Movies about men hanging out shootin’ the shit have a pretty lurid reputation. In those besides, say, “My Dinner With André,” images that spring to mind are road trips, beer bongs, masturbation jokes, togas, carnal encounters with baked goods. And if we’re lucky, a heart-to-heart that reveals that these loud-mouthed louts with nothing but sex on the brain might actually be human deep down inside. For me, besides belly laughs (and smug satisfaction at being confirmed the more civilized sex), the interest in guy flicks lies in the insight they offer into the way men talk to each other, especially about women.

In most broad comedies about high school or college-aged guys, such gems as “Porky’s” and “American Pie,” the main goal in life seems to be getting laid, although occasionally an added impetus spices things up, like trying to satisfy the munchies (“Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle”), get into Princeton (“Risky Business”), or pass history class (“Bill & Ted’s Big Adventure”) — all, of course, in addition to doing one’s damndest to get laid. In “American Pie,” the über-guys-trying-to-get-laid movie, the quest dominates most conversations among the attractive, horny males in the cast, allowing for dialogue like this:

“What exactly does third base feel like?”

“Like warm apple pie…”

“McDonald’s or homemade?”

Many guy flicks transcend their base premise with realistic, witty dialogue (“Clerks”), funny, high concept plot machinations (“Harold & Kumar,” “Bill & Ted”) or overall comic genius (“Animal House”). And the best of them manage to bury sweetness and humanity beneath the filth. While Hollywood woos the delish 18-25-year-old dude demographic with absurdity and dick jokes, independent filmmakers who make chatty guy flicks tend to have some deeper purpose in mind — more “American Graffiti” than “Losin’ It.” Often the fictional men whose lives we invade are older and their goals are shifting from losing their virginity — or banging as many cheerleaders as possible — to growing up and potentially sleeping with one woman for the rest of their lives, a shift that can trigger anxiety, stubborn bursts of commitment-phobia and a lot of drama. Hence the attraction for directors of a certain age who still want to make movies about themselves and their homies.

“If you want to talk, you always have the guys at the diner. You don’t need a girl if you want to talk,” says Eddie (Steve Guttenberg) in Barry Levinson’s “Diner” (1982), a film about a group of 20-somethings in 1959 Baltimore resisting adulthood with all their might. Eddie is a man prepared to call off his wedding if his fiancée fails a prenuptial football trivia quiz he has devised for her, clearly an excuse. Marriage is a symbol of growing up and having to say good-bye to a carefree youth spent hanging out with the guys at the diner.

In Ed Burns’ “The Groomsmen” (now in theaters), the director plays Paulie, a Long Island reporter on the verge of marrying his pregnant girlfriend (Brittany Murphy) who is wrestling with his fear of taking this leap. Gathering for the big event are Paulie’s brother Jim (Donal Logue), who is having marital problems of his own, happily married bartender and father of two, Des (Matthew Lillard), secretly gay T.C. (John Leguizamo) and Mike (Jay Mohr), who still lives at home, obsesses about his ex and gets all the funniest lines. Like “The Brothers McMullan,” which launched Burns’ directing and acting career in 1995, the film features scene after scene of the guys engaging in such manly activities as softball, fishing and boozing it up, all the while giving each other advice about sex and love, although now more mature topics like fatherhood and infertility are integrated into the discussion.

Even the guys from indie sensation “Clerks” are growing up — or at least trying to. On July 21, the audience that fell in love with such dialogue as “My girlfriend’s sucked 37 dicks.” “In a row?” excitedly welcomes Kevin Smith’s “Clerks II,” which the writer-director has described as being “about when that lazy 20-something malaise lasts into your 30s.” I haven’t seen the film yet, but reportedly Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) are still working behind the counter, now at a monster fast-food joint, although Dante is engaged — but still spending his days having conversations (classified as “obscene” by one critic) with the guys and making the moves on his hot boss (Rosario Dawson).

Occasionally, real insight into the concerns of real men can be found between the obscenities. Doug Liman’s “Swingers” (1996), for example, which was written by Jon Favreau who also plays Mike, focuses on Mike and his friends acting suave and drinking cocktails and strategizing hilariously about how to get girls, or “babies,” into bed. But under the Machiavellian rule-making lies the story of a man devastated by a breakup and friends that genuinely care.

“I could, like, forget about her and then when she comes back make like I just pretended to forget about her,” Mike says.

“Right, although probably more likely the opposite,” says his friend Rob (Ron Livingston). “I mean, at first you’re going to pretend to forget about her. You’ll not call her, I don’t know, whatever… but then eventually you really will forget about her.”

“Well, what if she comes back first?” Mike asks.

“See, that’s the thing,” Rob says, “is somehow they know not to come back until you really forget.”

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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