With Rose Byrne cast yet again in the role of uptight pretty girl and a premise involving marriage, audiences could be forgiven for thinking that writer/director Dan Mazer’s new film, I Give It a Year, was going to be another “Bridesmaids”-like comedy. Alas it is not (sadly), it’s more of a Frankenstein of genres — a mishmash of drama, comedy and romance elements — no one really standing out or being particularly strong, all meshing together just well enough to be considered watchable.
It begins with an almost ironic depiction of head-over-heels in love couple Nat (Byrne) and Josh’s (Rafe Spall, “Prometheus”) sickly sweet whirlwind romance that culminates in the happiest day of their lives: Their wedding (literally, as it all appears to go down-hill from that point onwards).
Oddly (or perhaps clichéd), once they are married, viewers, like Josh, find out that Nat is not the sweet light-hearted girl portrayed in the beginning but in fact the complete opposite — she’s a head-strong girl who takes life far too seriously and is completely unsuited to Josh’s laid-back goofball persona. Not convinced they’ll last the year (hence the movie title), they begin taking marriage guidance from a clearly insane counselor named Linda (Olivia Colman, “Tyrannosaur”). A series of flashbacks are employed to let us know how the couple had reached this rocky precipice.
Byrne appears to have found her comedic niche playing unlikeable pretty girls, however, Nat is nowhere near as enjoyable a persona as Byrne’s past successes. Nat lacks any sense of humor and possesses very little warmth which is why it’s hard to believe when Nat’s new client Guy (Simon Baker, “Margin Call”) over hears her bitching about him in a sushi bar and decides that she’s the one for him and begins ardently pursuing her. And whilst Nat is busy fending off the relentless come-on’s from Guy, Josh rediscovers a torch he once held for his aid-worker ex, Chloe (Anna Faris, “Movie 43”). Attractions begin to develop between Nat and Guy, and Josh and Chloe and I Give It a Year becomes a farce about deciding whether unfaithful lusting is more important than sacred marriage vows.
Starting the movie from where most rom-com narratives finish was an interesting idea as it gave writer/director Dan Mazer, who has in the past collaborated with Sacha Baron Cohen on films like “Brüno” and “Borat”, an opportunity to impress upon the uglier underbelly of marriages. Unfortunately, he relies too heavily on Josh’s asshole friend Danny (Stephen Merchant, “Hall Pass”) to deliver the film’s avalanche of nonpolitically-correct humor.
Interestingly, the real comedy frontrunner of I Give It a Year is Rafe Spall. Previously forgettable in many of his past films, he manages to demonstrate a relaxed, natural comic delivery necessary for his character to remain likable even under the dumbest of circumstances. The movie would have been suited better though, had Byrne and Faris, both of whom have proven comedic capabilities, been given more spotlight in their straight-woman roles.
So if “just watchable” is in the cards, I Give It a Year is a good cinema choice. But with its accomplished actors and a writer who knows how to push the boundaries in outlandish ways, I Give It a Year should have been a “must see.”