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I Give It a Year

2013 | 97 min | R | 2.39:1

I Give It a Year


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Theatrical release date

 09 August, 2013
 08 February, 2013

Country of origin

 United Kingdom

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Screenshots from I Give It a Year Blu-ray

I Give It a Year Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 6, 2013

Romantic comedies have it rough these days, but most invite misery through absurdly pedestrian screenwriting and dismal, overly vanilla casting. The British production “I Give It a Year” manages to indulge a touch of warmth via carefully managed bitterness, dissecting the genre to locate ideal notes of distress and embarrassment to play. In danger of becoming yet another relationship picture that misunderstands the Richard Curtis formula, the movie instead acquires its own personality of vulgar humor and matrimonial inspection, delivering on laughs and knowing cohabitational nods as it makes an agreeable screen mess of emotions and impulses, carried largely by an ensemble clearly enjoying the opportunity to send up the foibles of coupledom.

Middling author Josh (Rafe Spall) and marketing executive Nat (Rose Byrne) are mismatched, yet the two are in love and ready for the adventure of marriage, a union relatives (including Minnie Driver and Jason Flemyng) and friends (Stephen Merchant) generally disapprove of. After months of wedlock, the pair aren’t growing any closer, with Nat’s attention turned to Guy (Simon Baker), the dashing owner of a chemical corporation in need of an image makeover, while Josh struggles with his complex feelings for ex-girlfriend Chloe (Anna Faris), a dowdy charity worker who still pines for the one that got away. Attempting to repair the domestic fracture with an abrasive therapist (Olivia Coleman), the couple can’t settle into a comfortable routine, with his slob-like habits and her uptightness resulting in coldness, pushing them away from each other. As Nat teases an affair with Guy, who goes to great lengths to win her over, Josh attempts to stay on course, yet time spent with Chloe, whose love life is a shambles, only confuses him more.

“I Give It a Year” marks the feature-length directorial debut for screenwriter Dan Mazer, who’s spent the last decade working intimately with Sacha Baron Cohen on such hits as “Da Ali G Show,” “Borat” and “Bruno.” Perhaps this background in the bizarre and the subversive is why “I Give It a Year” doesn’t carry itself much like a traditional married life comedy, instead focusing on the potential of weird sight gags and public humiliation. Despite the temptation to tear the genre a new one, Mazer crafts a good-natured take on household divide, attempting to inflate these potentially flat characters with a little life by treating the premise with a degree of honesty, spotlighting a couple clearly headed toward ruin but refusing to accept the obvious evidence before them, fighting to preserve an airless marriage for increasingly feeble reasons. It’s an anti-romantic comedy in many ways, displaying how a coupling could occur with the best of intentions, with the lovers themselves the last to grasp the mismatch. Underneath the tomfoolery, there’s a welcome observance of doomed love and the frantic construction of social buttresses necessary to keep up appearances.

Although the movie generally downplays the warm fuzzies of attraction, it remains a lively affair due to its crack comic timing and Mazer’s imagination for jokes. With the exception of Baker, who’s miscast as a suave charmer (looking more sleep-deprived than an all-powerful seducer), the ensemble displays immense appeal and dedication to one-liner salesmanship, landing Mazer’s curveballs to the best of their ability. To the director’s credit, he keeps Spall on a tight leash, limiting the actor’s overwhelming enthusiasm for iffy improvisations, using proper editing to slice down the leading man’s work into appetizing nibbles of manic behavior, turning Josh into a palatable spaz who loves to dance like an idiot and show pride of ownership with his sense of humor. Faris is also a delight, doing her best to sell some strange turns of the script, including Chloe’s awkward navigation of a three-way her partners refuse to include her in. Credit should also be paid to Clare Higgins and Nigel Planer, who play Josh’s amorous parents with ideal aplomb, stealing the few moments they share onscreen.

A handful of Mazer’s ideas come across indulgent, including a tense scene of slapstick where Josh panics over provocative photos displayed on a digital frame in front of Nat’s parents -- a hokey, superfluous sitcom moment. “I Give It a Year” is better focusing on bewilderment, idiosyncrasy, and unexpected romantic disasters, such as Guy’s effort to introduce live doves into his wooing of Nat (Byrne’s fear of these feathered creatures appears awfully real). It’s also smart about upending break-up-to-make-up monotony with an unusual conclusion that gleefully celebrates the death of commitment. It’s these little comedic forks in the road that helps the film avoid repetition, sustaining the picture’s delightful sense of humor and interest in stripping marriage of its sanctity.

Starring: Rose Byrne, Rafe Spall, Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Minnie Driver, Stephen Merchant
Director: Dan Mazer

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