When it comes to the Romantic Comedy genre, predictability is usually the order of the day. That and Julia Roberts/Katherine Heigl/Jennifer Aniston being clumsy while a boy stands in front of this girl asking him to love her. I Give It a Year has none of these. And I couldn’t be more happy about that.
Coming from the mind of writer/director Dan Mazer, the man who helped Sacha Baron Cohen create Ali G, Borat and Bruno, it should come as no surprise that I Give It a Year is not your typical rom com (that “ballsy” in my headline postscript is not just for attitude). This is abundantly clear as mere minutes after witnessing the holy matrimonies of ambitious career girl Nat (Rose Byrne) and layabout writer Josh (Rafe Spall) we head – via a detour courtesy of the worst best man’s speech ever; the work of Josh’s social-skills devoid best friend Dan (Stephen Merchant) – straight to the marriage counsellor’s office nine months later.
Seems like that whole “love at first sight, lets get married just barely after we’ve met” thing may have been a tad overrated, as Nat and Josh’s marriage are already in a rut. Cue them, through the very inappropriate urgings of their therapist Linda (Olivia Colman) and some hilarious flashbacks, taking us through what has transpired to get them to that point.
And so we experience those early steps of Nat and Josh’s marriage, so intimately familiar to so many young couples: the sickly sweet honeymoon phase, the establishing a routine phase; the getting used to each other’s (annoying) habits phase; the discovering that your husband’s American friend and bohemian colleague, Chloe (Anna Faris) is actually his ex-girlfriend who may technically not deserve the “ex” part since they never officially broke it off when she went to Africa, and who may/may not still be holding a flame for him phase; and finding out that your new rich American lothario client, Guy (Simon Baker), who is all hair products and disarming, roguish smiles, clearly does not want to keep your relationship professional phase.
Okay, so maybe those last two are new, but Nat and Josh deal with these curve balls of life by trying to play matchmaker between the pair of Yanks, while at the same time trying to repair their floundering marriage by spicing things up a bit. That’s right, this rom com is a twofer!
While there are a small smattering of “funny” scenes that fall so flat on their face that they may as well be pugs, for the most part Mazer’s script zings, stuffed with that typically British dry humour and barbed sarcasm that we’ve come to know and love (Well, at least, I have). Minnie Driver in particular, as Nat’s acerbic sister Naomi, showcases her talent for spitting knife-edged one liners so dry that you can just about see the erupting dust clouds from where they strike their victims, which just so happens to almost always be her embattled husband Hugh (Jason Flemyng).
As with most British rom-coms, things do tend to get a bit more risque than their Hollywood counterparts, but the cast, all as effortlessly charming in their roles as they are willing to engage in some raucous self effacing hilarity, take to it with aplomb. Special mention must be made of Rafe Spall’s insanely awkward scene of viewing honeymoon photos with his in-laws, which takes an unexpectedly… explicit turn, and Anna Faris proving that threesomes are not quite as sexy as your fantasies make them out to be.
Mazer, especially in the film’s third act, plays loose and fast with the rom-com genre conventions, even outright upending some at the most surprising times. I will admit though, this did feel a bit… weird. We’re so used to the way these things typically play out, that any deviation from the by now firmly established rom com rulebook is a bit unsettling at first. I can actually see how some die-hard rom-commers, who like things to stay just the way they are, thank you very much, may not take to some of these unexpected genre gymnastics, but I applaud Mazer for trying something new. Even if in hindsight, thinking on it a bit more, the film’s final destination isn’t actually all that different to what is usually expected of these things, it’s just that Mazer has the film bobbing and weaving just enough to throw the stale genre trappings off its tail, even if the end result is a little sloppy and hackneyed.
I Give It a Year is a risky (and risque) film that tends to be more com than rom, does get a bit clumsy on occasion and may put off those aforementioned genre purists with it’s offbeat script choices. But while those no fun-damentalists are all out writing sternly worded pleas to Garry Marshall to save them from this new malady, the rest of us can have a good laugh at something slightly refreshing and often raucously funny.
Last Updated: July 18, 2013