SXSW FILM 2013
By Linc Leifeste | March 12, 2013
Director: Dan Mazer
Writer: Dan Mazer
Starring: Rose Byrne, Rafe Spall, Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Stephen Merchant, Olivia Colman, Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng
What do you get when you take a Sasha Baron Cohen collaborator and co-writer and give him a healthy budget to make a British romantic comedy? About what you’d expect, to be honest. I Give It a Year presents a slightly snarkier and much cruder take on the average American romantic comedy, one that starts where most end, as the guy gets the girl. From there it winds its way back around to the guy getting the girl. Beyond laughs, which the film successfully delivers in spurts (thank God for Stephen Merchant and threesomes), if there’s a message here, it’s that personal happiness is important and trumps any “sanctity of marriage,” but is that really a message we’re in need of?
The film opens with Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spell) getting married following a whirlwind romance after falling in love at first glance. It becomes quickly apparent at the wedding that this is not a couple well suited for each other, prompting Nat’s sister Naomi (Minnie Driver) to make the title prediction. And sure enough, it’s only months before they’re visiting a hilariously dysfunctional marriage counselor (Olivia Colman), the driven advertising executive Nat at wit’s end with charmless schlep of a writer Josh.
Around this same time, stereotypical hunk and wealthy American business owner Guy shows up at Nat’s firm and at her co-worker’s insistence she takes her wedding ring off to help secure his business. As well, Nat and his ex-girlfriend Chloe (Anna Faris), a sweet but frumpy charity worker, are spending more and more time together. I won’t tell you where things wind up, saving at least the potential for surprise. But I will say that despite some effort to turn the standard rom-com formula on its head the film winds up with a just as forced and “all ends well” closing as any other film of the genre.
While none of the film’s pedestrian lead characters are particularly likeable, some of the least likeable and most outrageous prove the funniest. Nat’s good friend, Danny (Stephen Merchant), is completely clueless and consistently inappropriate and provides the biggest laughs of the film, with his biggest competition coming from Colman’s aforementioned marriage counselor and in the form of an awkward threesome Chloe finds herself caught up in with a co-worker boyfriend. All the lead performances are adequate with Byrne’s performance standing out. But in the end, it’s the films recurring gags that steal the show and hog the laughs in this at times overly caustic take on romance and married life.