Billing itself as an anti-rom-com, Dan Mazer’s I Give It a Year begins at the point where most romantic comedies end – with the loved-up couple about to embark on their life together. Traditionally, the credits roll and it’s happy ever after… Or so the genre’s practitioners would have us to believe.
Here, Rafe Spall’s Josh and Rose Byrne’s Nat have made it to the altar, but, from the moment the vicar gets a coughing fit during the vows, future bliss does not appear to be in the offing.
One look at the pair tells you they’re not suited to each other. He’s a slobbish, emotionally arrested author; she’s a svelte, uptight executive. Of course, rom-com couples are often chalk and cheese, which allows screenwriters to have fun exploring how opposites attract. Writer-director Mazer, Sacha Baron Cohen’s comic collaborator on Bruno, Borat and The Dictator, finds his fun in showing how opposites pull apart.
To stir things up, he gives Josh and Nat prospective alternative partners (both of them American). For Josh, his slightly frumpy old flame, charity worker Chloe (Anna Faris); and for Nat, rich smoothie Guy (Simon Baker), a new client at her advertising agency. In the face of mutual temptation, can Josh and Nat make their marriage work?
As the duo work their way through this conundrum it becomes clear that Mazer hasn’t really turned the rom-com genre inside out. And nor has he given it a dose of realism. His plot is every bit as contrived as the rom-com norm and relies on the genre’s usual clichés (Josh and Nat’s character types couldn’t be more stereotypical).
He does, however, pile on the gags, setting up a series of rude and raunchy set pieces – including an embarrassing game of charades with the in-laws and an even more embarrassing mix-up involving candid honeymoon snaps and a digital photo frame.
Elsewhere, Mazer’s wobbly quality control means that the viewer will be cringing too – Stephen Merchant, as Josh’s boorish best friend, delivers a dismally unfunny best man’s speech and his subsequent appearances in the story are even more toxic.
In cinemas from Friday 8th February.
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