Review: I GIVE IT A YEAR, Romantic Comedy Brashly Turned On Its Ear

Peter Martin, Managing Editor

Effortlessly emerging from an ocean of belabored romantic comedies, I Give It A Year is a breath of fresh air; it's brash, witty, and insightful.

On paper, Dan Mazer's script sounds stereotypical and schematic: a couple rush into marriage, experience romantic tributions, and are tempted toward infidelity by others. In execution, however, Mazer's directorial debut is dextrous and surprising, swiftly introducing tropes and then, just as quickly, taking the piss out of them.

Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall play the couple in question, named Nat and Josh, respectively. She's a marketing consultant, he's a writer. They're both fit, attractive, and in their thirties, anxious to settle down and get on with their lives. They marry after seven months of courtship, but within nine months they're seeing a marriage counselor.

That's not a spoiler, by the way: it all happens within the first 10 minutes of the movie, which includes the titular line of dialogue, spoken by Nat's pessismistic friend Naomi (Minnie Driver), who appears to be ragingly unhappy in her marriage to the hapless Hugh (Jason Flemyng), at the marriage of the initially happy couple. Further context is provided by the other members of Nat and Josh's small circle of close friends: Danny (Stephen Merchant), Josh's best mate, is hilariously, if unintentionally, crude and rude; Chloe (Anna Faris), Josh's ex-girlfriend, is insecure and awkward.

"Awkward" and "unintentional" definitely applies to the interactions between the characters, especially in the case of Nat and Josh. Soon after their marriage, endearing traits become irritating habits, and all the social lubrication in the world cannot stem the rising tide of resentment that begins to rise between them. They are equal opportunity offenders, each registering their discontent in silent grumbling expressed through facial reactions.

i-give-it-a-year-poster-300.jpgIt's a sign of the film's quality that it gets more varied and delightful mileage out of those physical reactions -- from the entire cast, delivered with nuanced subtlety -- then most other romantic comedies get from profane jokes and clumsy slapstick. Not that I Give It A Year is by any measure prudish; it's filled with obscenities and bawdy humor and even quick snatches of male frontal nudity.

What sets it apart, though, is the tone, best described as dignified and proper only on the surface. Much of the time, the characters say and do things as upper-class manners dictate, with respect and restraint, yet frustrations and anger burble throughout and occasionally erupt, only to quickly and appropriate subside.

The performances by the entire cast, including Simon Baker as an American businessman with an eye on Nat, are spot-on, straight down to the smaller roles. As much as I love Rose Byrne's work here, and the comedic brilliance of Anna Faris, it's Stephen Merchant who gets things off on the right foot, and then returns from time to time to very funny effect, right through to the end credits.

It's all marvelously orchestrated by Dan Mazer, making I Give It A Year a wonderfully pleasant and refreshing comedy, with just a touch of authentic romantic drama.


The film opens today, Friday, August 9, in selected theaters in the U.S., and is also available to watch via various Video On Demand platforms. Visit the official site for more information.

Around the Internet:
  • Aleks

    5.8 on IMDb, 57% on RottenTomatoes.

    Gotta go, got some eggs on the stove.

  • Michael Bates

    Why all the hate for this film,great little film that does it all right in unexpected ways as you said. This film is a great relief from the typical rom-com coming out of Hollywood. Great review for a great film 3 1/2 *.

  • davebaxter

    Oh my goodness no. I don't know what movie you guys watched but it can't have been the same "I GIVE IT A YEAR" I screened at AFM last year.

    The comedy is tortuously forced, the actors (especially Rose Byrne) were apparently directed to mug at the camera every five god damned seconds, because god forbid any single sliver of humor not be telegraphed and the audience miss the fact that something rude/gross/shocking was just said. "Forced" is in fact the best single word I can think of to describe this whole debacle of a film. Everyone character spends the entire film saying whatever an unimaginative screenwriter might deem to be omg noyoudidn't responses to each other, mixed with tired sitcom style inabilities to communicate with each other beyond shocking gauche statements.

    I literally cringed my way to the end of this thing. The whole approach treats the audience like they're 8 years old and hammers every single "joke" home with sledgehammer necessity. Characters are there only to show how funny all this relationship stuff is, except, you know, actual mature people don't have relationships this shallow or callow. And it frankly isn't entertaining to have actors all but wink at you every time you're supposed to laugh.

    (I believe this is what you refer to when you say "They are equal opportunity offenders, each registering their discontent in silent grumbling expressed through facial reactions." Translation: a whole lot of mugging.)

    You want a real nuanced (but still traditional) romantic comedy, watch the Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connolly film that was called "Writers" though I forget what they eventually released it as. THAT is a film that's flawed but still satisfying. I GIVE IT A YEAR is just horrible, horrible shit. I hate it so much I can't even be bothered to be eloquent about it. Ugh.

  • 'l'

    i agree, it was a good movie. could be better sure, but so much better than the typical romcom. plus steve merchant is hilarious in it

blog comments powered by Disqus
​​