Speak for yourself Brits! Us Americans love staying faithful to our marriages! Sort of.
After randomly meeting one another at a party seven months earlier, Nat and Josh (Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall) decide that they are in love, and have no one else they ever want to be with in their lives, which means only one thing: Marriage. Some say it’s too quick, some say it’s lovely, and some predict it to go on a year. After awhile, it seems like these two may actually last longer than a year and so on and so forth, but the cracks begin to show around month 3 or 4 when the thought of infidelity rears it’s ugly head in (as it usually does). For Josh, it’s in the form of his ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris), who has just returned from Africa after 4 years; and as for Nat, she begins to get very, very attracted to a billionaire playboy that she takes her wedding ring off for and flirts with, in hopes that he’ll do business with her and her company, but also seems to not mind the obvious sexual-tension brewing between the two. Both forms of attractions end up coming together, and it’s whether or not Josh or Nat really do love one another to stick through all of the thick and thin is what really counts.
The British have dominated the rom-com genre for a long while, but have somehow also fallen off the map as of late. They’ve definitely had a few good ones here and there, but nothing too special that brings us back to the days of Four Weddings & A Funeral, to Bridget Jones’s Diary and so on and so forth. Without being so obvious about it, I Give It a Year tries to rekindle those flames that were once around and about all those years ago and does so very well, mainly because it reminds us that this is a rom-com, one that actually features comedy. Let me repeat that: COMEDY.
You see, where this movie had me going was that it was actually funny, even if I noticed it was trying a tad too hard to do so. Most of the laughs come from the inescapable awkwardness of the situations these characters throw themselves into, and even though it does seem to get a bit over-played at times, it still somehow made me laugh at others. Take for instance a scene where everybody’s playing a little sweet game of charades and Josh goes up. He has a word that’s hard to describe in a natural, normal way, so of course this being an R-rated, British rom-com, he decides to give out hints and clues the dirty way. Obviously this is meant to be seen as a painful and horrible experience for Josh and everybody involved, almost so horrible and painful that it’s downright near unbelievable, but I couldn’t help but laugh because the movie milks it all for what they got.
And that scenes only one example from this movie. There are plenty more where that came from and it definitely didn’t disappoint me in that regard, even when it did stray away from being awkward and tried to be witty, and “British”, for lack of a better word. Most of the time, it doesn’t work and seems like it’s a bit lazy, but other times, it had me laughing more than I expected to and for that, I have to give the film a high-amount of praise. It’s very rare when a rom-com can actually have me laugh-out-loud more than a couple of times, and do have me do it so in a way that’s refreshing and makes me feel like I’m spending my precious time and money on something that deserves to be watched and laughed at. And not “laughed at” in the bad sense; the good sense that you’d expect from a comedy, especially a British one.
But where the movie succeeds very well in the comedy aspect, it somewhat fails with the romantic one. It isn’t that the movie doesn’t have a romance at the center of it’s flick worth caring about, it’s just that it’s structure is so centered on watching as these two fumble around with their emotions, try their hardest to steer clear and away from sleeping around, and question their marriage to begin with, that you almost lose all sort any type of sympathy this couple had going for themselves to begin with. They do seem in love and they do seem like they were right for one another, but we are sort of just plopped-down in center of it all as they can’t seem to grab one another, make love, and mean it when all is said and done. Even when the flick does decide to explore some darker, meaner territory about their relationship and the future of it all, it all feels a bit too under-cooked, as if director Dan Mazer didn’t really care much for these characters and just wanted to do something that was considered new, cool, original, or altogether, “different”. He succeeded at that, but not in the way that allowed the story to have any certain impact or meaning behind it all. It was just there to shock people, and maybe it will succeed at that.
Mainly though, I feel a bit bad for the cast because although they do get to stretch some of their comedic-muscles with this material, they feel a bit like “characters” and not actual, real people we’d see in a relationship or feeling the same feelings that these characters are supposedly having. Rafe Spall is a fine fit as Josh because he’s a bit of a goof and always seems to be getting into a bit of trouble, and has fun doing just that, but it doesn’t seem like the movie is all that concerned with going anywhere else with this character, other than just give us the fool we see just about every scene he’s in. Not to say that he’s bad, but it feels like he could have been a better-used character, had he been more rounded-out. The same could almost be said for Rose Byrne as Nat, even though she definitely enjoys playing the straight-gal in between all of these wild hijinx that ensue. Problem is, she too feels like a character you can’t believe in and only see as the type of woman who should have never gotten married in the first place or even bothered with settling down.
Everybody else suffers from the same problems, but they’re lucky that they’re at least a little funnier and used less, so it’s less of a distraction. Anna Faris gets a higher-billing than obvious main star Spall, which is definitely to appeal to a wider, American audience, and most will like what she does here because she seems to do it in every flick she’s apart of. Not to say that her act is getting stale or anything, but when she’s up against these fellow Brits, she does seem like the odd woman out who can’t quite hold her own when it comes to do something new with her act/image. It’s just being weird, slightly ditsy, and always awkward whenever the situation allows it to be. Simon Baker may have seemed like a strange choice as the other American here, but the dude has wit and charm that works, even if his character feels like a bit of a dick at the end of it all. Then again though, any guy who makes as much money as his character does will always be deemed “unlikable” and “unsympathetic”. In today’s economy, that’s just the way it is. Things will never be the same. Okay, they will be, but you know what I mean.
However, while these two try what they can and sadly fall victim to the lazy script, others in the cast really keep the laughs coming, going, and popping-up in situations when you least expect them to. Such talented stars like Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Olivia Colman, and especially Stephen Merchant, all get a chance to have their own, respective scene where they rip this scrip apart and just be funny. They all do so very well, that it’s a shame they aren’t in it more, or that they’re lovable wit, charm, and humor didn’t at least rub off more on the leads. If only.
Consensus: Rather than being a rom-com that is both hilarious, as well as heart-wrenching and honest about human relationships, marriage, and staying faithful, I Give It a Year only sticks with the former, forgets the latter, and loses it’s balance of dark and funny around the end.
6.5 / 10 = Rental!!