We Brits, or in this particular case Working Title, are a reliable source when it comes to churning out conventional yet hugely successful romantic comedies. Protagonists in distress? Check. Splatterings of crude yet witty humour? Check. The incorporation of a lavish wedding? Full house. So it was only a matter of time before one brave soul attempted to tinker with the ‘formula’. Courtesy of Dan Mazer (Director/Writer of Bruno), ‘I Give It A Year’ flips the narrative trajectory of its genre counterparts by depicting the challenging aftermath one couple faces once tying the knot.
From the offset, Nat and Josh (Rose Bryne and Rafe Spall) are a classic case of ‘opposites attract’. She, the occasionally uptight yet unashamedly ambitious PR consultant. He, the fun loving albeit immature writer immersed in his second novel. Engulfed in their own marital bliss, they are oblivious to the doubters and even the cough-threatened Minister, who appear adamant their joy will be short lived. In particular Nat’s sharp tongued sister played by Minnie Driver, declaring they’d be fortunate to survive a year.
Fast forward nine months, the couple have already succumbed to the dreaded ‘last resort’. Marriage counselling. Under the unorthodox gudiance of Linda (Olivia Coleman), they attempt to identify and dissect the potential signs that have hampered their marriage. Seemingly eager to achieve the feat of an anniversary, they are both faced with lingering temptation. Nat desperately avoids mixing business with pleasure in the form of a slick American client called Guy (The Mentalist’s Simon Baker) whilst Josh’s fondness for his charity working ex Chloe (Anna Faris) has failed to diminish.
The film ultimately thrives on the heightened awkwardness of its comedic situations, coupled with its offbeat casting. Whether it’s Faris falling foul to the potential pratfalls of a threesome. Stephen Merchant’s rambling yet playful anecdotes about relationships or Spall’s cringeworthy attempts at ‘booty popping’, director Fazer proves consistently efficient in integrating smarts into the inevitably crass nature of its intended laughs.
Unfortunately, this compensates for the flimsy handling of the ‘romance’. Accentuating the flaws in each respective character’s ‘complexion’ is refreshingly mature yet ultimately results in a lack of emotional engagement, as the film desperately subverts expectations channelling a clear disapproval that marriage is the way forward. In addition, the editing is occasionally cutthroat. In a style that veers dangerously close to a sitcom, Mazer is almost reluctant to get bogged down in relationship ‘dynamics’ as he hurries to the next attack on our respective funny bones.
Performance wise, Merchant and Driver easily bag the title of ‘showstealers’ in their cameo outings, whilst Spall and Byrne inject enough personality into the familiarity of their roles, conjuring up an undeniably strong chemistry. However from an ‘American’ perspective, with the usually zany Anna Faris playing it ‘straight’, you can’t shake the feeling it’s a waste of her talents.
Brimming with zingy one-liners and laugh out loud set pieces, ‘I Give It A Year’ whilst a tad unrefined, is a solid genre entry worth ‘giving a chance’ to.