(Originally posted at CineVue)
Ever since the Working Title stable made a decision to fund acclaimed, lucrative comedies that were as romantic as they were inherently British, the desire to replicate such successes has rendered the UK’s grasp of the genre somewhat wanting. However, Dan Mazer’s timely I Give It a Year (2013) looks to reinstate our nation’s taste for domestically tinged romantic comedies by offering – like Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) before it – the antidote to such stale proceedings by effectively exploring the subsequent travails of the happily ever after idyll. The film attempts to give answers to the question: what happens after you say “I do”? by circumnavigating stale convention, but finds itself trapped within its own conformism.
Rafe Spall (in his first leading role) and Rose Byrne play Josh and Nat respectively, a couple who, after an all too brief seven-month romance – signified by an all too brief one minute opening montage – upgrade their whirlwind relationship and tie the knot. Once the couple’s notions of wedded bliss begin to dwindle and the honeymoon period draws to a weary stop, the cracks in their spontaneously thrown together affair begin to show; conflicting traits and career path’s swell whilst dissimilar lifestyles exacerbate their already ingrained problems.
Flitting back and forth between the numerous pleasures and pitfalls of their first few married months and, latterly, sessions with a cantankerous relationship councillor (an over the top Olivia Colman), the film charts Nat and Josh’s questioning of whether they did indeed make the right decisions. Their nuptials are further challenged by attractive alternatives in the form of Josh’s kooky humanitarian ex-girlfriend Chloe (Anna Faris) and Nat’s suave American client Guy (Simon Baker), whose respective suitability test the couple’s devotion and ultimately force them to decide between passion and dependability.
Peppered with a similar amount of gross-out gags, garishly shaped supporting characters and the supposedly satirical humour Mazer injected to his previous projects Borat (2006) and Bruno (2009), I Give It a Year is a triumph of mediocrity accentuated by an unrequited desire to do what the debut filmmaker is unable to achieve. In attempting to seek the supposedly unseen truths behind an uncomfortable dichotomy between the perfect marriage between two people who aren’t necessarily perfect for each other, Mazer has optimistically crafted an imbalanced film fuelled by incompetent filmmaking and sloppy characterisation. Both the portrayal of Josh and Nat and their relationship is rushed and underdeveloped, so when their affections become intercepted by equally listless characters, the film feels more passive than natural and honest. As narrative convolutions begin to stack up, Mazer continues to lifelessly counter the established permutations of the genre despite eventually giving in and welcoming a contented climax, no matter how awkward and hasty it appears to be. The genre continues to struggle, and I Give It a Year won’t be reigniting its diminishing flame any time soon.