There are romantic comedies with premises so trite they morph into tragedies, others so saccharin you leave the theater with actual pain, and still others with writing that make typically wonderful actors look like amateurs a couple one-liners in. But there are a few that suffer from such standard rom-com pitfalls as predictability and sappy endings and still fare decently because the cast is so strong and the dialogue is so punchy; and that’s the safe spot where the Dan Mazer-directed I Give It a Year falls.
Nat and Josh, played by Australian actress Rose Byrne (Adam, Bridesmaids, The Place Beyond the Pines) and England-born Rafe Spall (Prometheus, One Day), are opposites who were attracted to the point of proposals and I Do’s. She’s a careerist making strides in the advertising world, and he’s a novelist with a book under his belt but no next big thing to speak of. The couple finds the differences between them refreshing until they become undeniably abhorrent.
Not long after promising their undying love, all Nat can see in her husband is a layabout who fails at basic household duties and irritates her with inane phone conversation while she’s at the office. Josh can’t quite understand why his drollery is completely lost on his wife, but he takes heart in knowing that at least he can get a song’s lyrics right, which she never does (“We built this city on the wrong damn rooooad!”).
As their respective idiosyncrasies swiftly deplete the couple’s store of bliss, other elements, in the form of an attractive, wavy-haired businessman seeking marketing strategies (Simon Baker of The Mentalist and The Devil Wears Prada) and Josh’s awkward but loveable charity worker ex-girlfriend Chloe (Anna Faris), help drive the point home that perhaps their match was made in a location somewhere outside of heaven. They’d feel like total failures if they couldn’t even make it to a year, but will they? It’s the question that may or may not weigh heavily on your heart throughout the film.
If this framework seems a yawn, it is. One would hope that common marital annoyances wouldn’t be enough to question the commitment—even if the less tactful party continually horrifies the other’s family members. And the alluring and/or comforting individuals outside the marriage angle isn’t much of an angle. But this is where the cinematic saviors—the extremely talented and hilarious supporting cast—come in.
Minnie Driver and Jason Flemyng (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Primeval) play Naomi and Hugh, a couple whose relationship is based on scathing honesty and making demeaning comments about each other around friends. But, quite conveniently, they get what “forever” means, and serve as a dysfunctional but momentarily powerful example of what can be achieved against the odds. Stephen Merchant (Extras, Movie 43) plays Danny, Josh’s most loathsome friend who without provocation or hesitation says the most inappropriate things in the film. They’re also some of the funniest lines, if you aren’t easily offended. (Remember, Dan Mazer, who wrote and directed the film, is the same Dan Mazer responsible for Brüno, Borat, and Ali G Indahouse.) Viewers only get a few minutes total of the phenomenon that is Olivia Colman (Broadchurch, Hyde Park on Hudson, Peep Show), who plays Nat and Josh’s ineffectual therapist, but again, her lines generate some of the biggest whoops in this just-under-100-minute picture.
This is an exceptionally funny ensemble cast whose comedic timing makes up for an average plot. Mazer’s writing is well suited to each player, each of whom portrays his/her character to a T. If you’re a fan of most or all of the cast, bets are you’ll enjoy the movie in spite of its less-inspired story. If you aren’t into Mazer’s brand of humor, then you might find it weak, slightly vulgar, and an insult to the institution of marriage. I laughed—a lot—but with no expectations of high art. And with this particular group of funny people, I knew I would.
I Give It A Year is in theaters now and is available on iTunes/On Demand.