Anti-rom-com’s have become more and more popular in recent years, with films such as (500) Days Of Summer, Celeste And Jesse Forever and Going The Distance exploring relationships in a realistic way not often captured in the traditional and formulaic rom-com’s we’ve come to accept as the norm. The latest of which, I Give It A Year, hails from first-time director Dan Mazer, who’s best known for scripting Sacha Baron Cohen comedies Borat and Brüno.
Josh (Rose Byrne) and Nat (Rafe Spall) could not be more different, yet after a few months of dating they decide to get married. Their friends and family, however, aren’t convinced they’ll be able to wether the tricky first year. Determined to prove them wrong, Josh and Nat do their best to make their relationship work, but with Josh’s ex-girlfriend Chloe (Anna Faris) and Nat’s dashing new client Guy (Simon Baker, the exact same here as he was in The Devil Wears Prada) on the scene, they find their attempts constantly challenged.
Mazer’s attempt to subvert the well-worn rom-com model has honourable intentions, but the script, which is loaded with slapstick and irksome humour instead of legitimately funny predicaments that audiences may feel resemble their own lives, is far too weak and foreseeable to be the solid piece of relatable entertainment it desires so strongly to be. It misfires on the opening scene, and unfortunately never recovers, in spite of Spall and Byrne’s enthusiast performances.
The vast majority of humour comes from crude one-liners (“I’d ruin Bieber”, uttered by the lapsed Minnie Driver) and Stephen Merchant’s obnoxious and sex-obsessed best man’s various mishaps (seriously, stop hiring him). It’s tiring, and only intermittently broken by flashes of welcome improvisation, such as Chloe’s cringeworthy threesome that highlights Faris’ excellent comic timing or Josh and Nat’s encounter with a crazed marriage counsellor (played brilliantly by Olivia Colman), that infuse the narrative with much-needed realism and spark.
It’s all captured in such an artificial way – Mazer opts for distant long-shots over more intimate close-ups, while Ben Davis’ cinematography is too polished – that leaves Josh and Nat’s story feeling unimportant. The end is a certainty from the very start and, because there’s almost nothing in the interim to encourage the audience to maintain interest in these one-dimensional characters and their ludicrous efforts to make their doomed marriage work, there’s ultimately no real need for I Give It A Year to exist in its presented form, as harsh as that sounds.