Director: Dan Mazer
Starring: Rafe Spall, Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Minnie Driver, Simon Baker, Stephen Merchant, Jason Flemyng
Running Time: 97 minutes
Synopsis: After a whirlwind romance, Josh (Spall) and Nat (Byrne) tie the knot, but soon find that things aren’t quite as easy as they’d imagined. With old flame Chloe (Faris) on the scene and a rather new attractive American (Baker) floating around Nat’s office, will the pair find themselves tempted by others before their first anniversary, or are they in it for the long haul?
For a film that aims to break away from romantic Hollywood clichés, I GIVE IT A YEAR relies too heavily on its puerile and farcical elements to showcase any novel perspectives on the overdone genre.
Realistic situations may be touched upon, but are frustratingly never fully realised, which is a real shame considering Dan Mazer proves himself in the odd sentimental, genuinely heartfelt moment. However, while the romantic backstory between Spall and Faris is one that begs to be further delved into, the excessive improvisation takes away from what could have been a far more interesting and quieter route for Mazer to go down.
Byrne, who was such a bright spark of comic talent in BRIDESMAIDS, struggles to find comfort in the chaos, whereas Faris naturally excels in the revelry. But for all the film’s idiotic and tiresome wrong turns, Rafe Spall once again proves himself a star. His infallible, slightly rough around the edges persona make him an unaffected lead who excels in the quiet moments while just about keeping you onboard during moments of improv overkill.
Simon Baker doesn’t have much to do besides looking suave and appealing as Nat’s source of distraction, which, understandably, he does just by standing in shot. But it is Jason Flemyng who is criminally wasted as Minnie Driver’s longsuffering husband, whose stories of woe would have been far more welcome than an ill-fated round of charades where Spall proceeds to mime profanities at Byrne’s grandmother to get the Bond-related answer he requires.
The decision to leave the camera rolling after a take does provide the odd comic gem (Tim Key has a ball while Olivia Colman surprisingly falls incredibly flat), but where Mazer’s usual work for king of comedy Sacha Baron Cohen is required to be farfetched, uproarious and off the wall, it just doesn’t fit here. Making it difficult to work out where the line between on and off script is drawn, you are left wondering what stayed on the cutting room floor, and though you’ll find yourself giggling at times, I GIVE IT A YEAR hits one too many Stephen Merchant delivered sex-based bum notes.
Though you will root for plucky underdog Chloe to win back Josh’s affections, the way Mazer ties things up feels very throwaway and blasé, undermining a lot of what has been invested in the main characters. But this is a flaw that runs throughout a film that panders more to its erratic hodgepodge of events than its want for an audience to form any sense of empathy with its troubled lovers.
Ultimately, the heartfelt scenes between old flames Chloe and Josh are interesting, but the comedy enshrouding and suffocating this standout pair is not. I GIVE IT A YEAR just about stays afloat due to Spall’s involvement, but he deserved a far better first shot at a romantic lead than this. Hidden beneath all the unnecessary comic flourishes, there is a good film here – it’s just really hard work trying to find it.