Nowadays, romantic comedies are the junk food of cinema. Like horror films, they are routinely packaged up for the lowest common denominator and sent out to the local multiplex, where they will invariably make their money back in the opening weekend before disappearing into obscurity. The main issue is they are so formulaic that we guess what’s going to happen to Katherine Higl and Gerard Butler before they’ve even walked onto the screen. So, the concept behind Dan Mazer’s I Give It A Year is intriguing enough to warrant some interest.
After a whirlwind seven month romance, Nat and Josh (played by Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall) have gotten married much to chagrin of their friend and family, who believe they are rushing into things and give them a year before it all ends. Did you see what they did there? Did you see?
Several months into their marriage, our protagonists find themselves drifting apart due to a desire for different things in life. Byrne is trying to maintain her marketing/PR/never really fleshed out career, whilst Spall is struggling to start his second novel, haven got too caught up in what he should cal the main character. Unable to understand each other’s problems and realising that they don’t have that much in common, they begin to find themselves drawn to other people. Namely, Byrne’s flashy client (Simon Baker) and Spall’s ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris).
Whilst there are some great comedic moments in I Give It A Year (namely Stephen Mechant’s excruciating best man speech and a cock-up with an electronic photo frame), its desire to do something drastically different fails ultimately because there is no one to root for here. Everybody is as shallow as a puddle with twice the personality. If you thought Richard Curtis wrote one-dimensional characters, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Faris is a floppy haired, free-spirited American that appears to have fallen out of a pixie’s nose, whilst Baker is a money shitting, high roller American with the personality of I Spit on Your Grave. And yet, they’re the ones you end up feeling sorry for in this whole sorry mess.
On top of that, there is a heavy vein of misogynistic fat that makes a Jason Segal script look forward thinking. Whilst both Spall and Byrne are painted as arseholes, it’s Byrne who seems to have been painted with the larger brush. It’s the woman who hides her marriage from the wooing client. It is the woman who initiates sex with people other than her husband. It is the woman who wants nothing more out of life than fine clothes and money. Meanwhile, Jason Segal, sorry, Rafe Spall shares tender moments with Faris and is the first to acknowledge there’s problems with his marriage. Dare we say it, he almost comes across as the hero, which, in Mazer’s defence, we don’t think was mean to be the idea.
I Give It A Year may not end the way you were expecting and, in a way it should be applauded or trying something new. However, ultimately, it’s an icky film that feels like a 90 minute set up to a mildly amusing 5 minute sketch.