I GIVE IT A YEAR
After a whirlwind romance, Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne) get married but soon find themselves incompatible. The girl with whom Josh broke up Chloe (Anna Faris) is still around, and potential client Guy (Simon Baker) pops up as an unexpected attraction for Nat. For all their efforts over 12 months, including bizarre marriage guidance counselling from Clare (Kerry Howard), Josh and Nat are unable to fulfill their wedding hopes. What to do?
Review by Louise Keller:
The happily ever after theory is tested in this rather forced rom-com that is not without its charms, but overplays its hand. Ali G writer and producer Dan Mazer has written and directed this sweetly cast English rom com, although it should be said that much of the dialogue and inferences are far from sweet. It's funny at times and there's an irony about many of the circumstances, like the romantic luncheon meeting set up by Simon Baker's solvent and bleach mogul Guy to impress Rose Byrne's married PR executive Nat in a plush London hotel boardroom. As the violinist works his fiddle and the Champagne and oysters chill on ice, the doves make an inelegant deposit on Nat's pretty outfit before fluttering dangerously near the ceiling fan.
I like the zaniness of many of the situations, and the cast is delightful, but Mazer's direction is far too obvious as he overdirects his actors - a little like that dove making its deposit.
The film begins with rose petals, fairy lights, Chinese lanterns and lace at the extravagant, fairy tale wedding of Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne) under a garden marquee. They are clearly opposites but it all seems to work and there are laughs and embarrassment with gauche best man speeches and a priest who has a coughing fit. It's the first year of marriage that's the toughest, say the couple's parents amid lines like 'She may never see another penis again,' and before we know it, nine months have elapsed and they are sitting in the marriage counsellor's office with someone who clearly needs counselling herself.
Married life seems to have ground to a slow and awkward limp, when Josh's ex Chloe (Anna Faris) reappears on the scene and handsome, charming Guy (Simon Baker) enters Nat's professional life. (Her colleagues insist she takes off her wedding ring, in a bid to get his lucrative account.) The film plays with the mismatched characters, allowing them to be awkward and embarrassed in various situations. While Chloe takes Josh to a lingerie shop that embraces the erotic to help choose a Christmas gift, Guy is impressing Nat in the plush hotel boardroom with the doves.
The digital photo sequence, in which R rated photos appear inadvertently, much to the parents' embarrassment, falls flat, as does the scene in which Josh and Nat are asked to confirm to a legal eagle, trying to be funny, which are the instances that would prompt them to turn off life support. Nice idea but poor execution. Lines like 'You're my type; I don't go for good looking,' sit on the fence.
The cast is fun and I especially like Minnie Driver as a relation who embraces the hatred. Byrne looks lovely but is over-directed and Baker is the epitomise of charm and can do no wrong. This is nobody's best moment and the film flounders. Spall plays his part well and Faris is perfect as the emotionally honest Chloe. It was always meant to be offbeat, risqué and shocking in parts and in some ways it achieves its goal - sort of. But it could have been much better and might have got more bite (as well as truth) with another director who allowed reality to dominate instead of pretence.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
When the Brits get it right, as with, say, Four Weddings and Bridget Jones, their rom-coms are engaging and moving and funny and memorable. When they get it wrong, as with I Give It A Year, their rom-com is boring, embarrassing, irritating and every bit as plastic as the worst of Hollywood.
Dan Mazer's claim to fame is having worked with Sacha Baron Cohen (which in my book disqualifies him from genuine comedy work) and he takes to this screenplay with the same cheap shot making that characterises Cohen's work. The characters are neither real nor appealing, the jokes are neither clever nor funny and the situation is as dull as cat's piss (relevance of pejorative description to be found in film). I knew I would resist the film from the opening scene at a church wedding where the big joke is the priest having a prolonged coughing fit before he can pronounce "husband and wife". And it's not just WHAT, but HOW, and Mazer's juvenile sense of humour simply isn't strong enough to give the film any balls.
Whatever enticed top talent such as Simon Baker, Rose Byrne, Anna Faris and in a smaller role, Minnie Driver, to get involved is unknowable. Even Stephen Merchant's obnoxious character falls flat since we can't believe he is the best friend and best man; he's a device.
My negativity is perhaps understandable when you consider that comedy is different: when we don't like drama, we shrug it off and move on, but when we don't like comedy, we get venomous. It's somehow more personal, as stand up comics will tell you.
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I GIVE IT A YEAR (M)
CAST: Rose Byrne, Simon Baker, Rafe Spall, Anna Faris, Stephen Merchant, Jason Flemyng, Minnie Driver, Olivia Colman
PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Kris Thyker
DIRECTOR: Dan Mazer
SCRIPT: Dan Mazer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Davis
EDITOR: Tony Cranstoun
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Simon Elliott
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 28, 2013
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.