Directed by: Dan Mazer
Premise: A couple (Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne) weds after a whirlwind romance and has a rocky first year of marriage.
What Works: I Give It a Year has a very strong first half. This portion of the movie is frequently funny, mostly because of the performances by the supporting cast. Olivia Colman plays a marriage counselor who appears with the couple in a wraparound sequence that frames the first two acts of the story. Colman’s comic talents punch up what would otherwise be static expository scenes. Stephen Merchant also contributes a lot of humor to the film as the leading man’s sidekick. Merchant is one of those performers who plays fundamentally the same character in every movie but the filmmakers of I Give It a Year allow him the latitude to do his awkward, fast-talking shtick, and he delivers many of the funniest bits of the movie. The cast also includes Anna Faris as the leading man’s ex-girlfriend. Faris has proven comic skills and she puts them to work but the actress also demonstrates a capacity for subtlety and emotion that is beyond any other performance in her career.
What Doesn’t: I Give It a Year is a very inconsistent picture. This is especially true of its tone and the movie veers from screwball humor to sex comedy to dramady to schmaltzy romance to satire to outright parody. That inconsistency isn’t entirely a fault. In fact, it sometimes works for the movie by creating unexpected combinations of elements and making the picture unpredictable, which gives it some comic edge. But the shifts in tone have a negative impact on the performances of Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne. Actors have to calibrate their performances to fit within the tone of the movie but with I Give It a Year shifting so radically from one moment to the next the actors are out of synch with the tenor of the film. The humor of I Give It a Year requires a specific taste. The comedy is frequently awkward and sometimes painful, especially the scenes involving Stephen Merchant, and so it will only appeal to viewers with an offbeat sensibility. I Give It a Year unravels in its second half as the picture gets less erratic and settles into the tropes of a standard romantic comedy. As the couple struggles to make the marriage work, each of them is tempted by the possibility of an affair. That choice creates a fundamental problem for this movie. Romances are about people who are separated from their beloved and either find a way to live happily ever after or resign themselves to unhappiness. I Give It a Year is about two people who find their marriage is a prison keeping them from the loves of their lives but they attempt to salvage the marriage anyway. This is very frustrating to watch. Movie romances only work if the audience wants to see these people together. The marriage between Spall and Byrne’s characters is obviously doomed from the get-go and they would do just as well to get it over with. But instead the movie delays the inevitable with a protracted and unimaginative series of scenes in which the couple attempts to make their relationship work only to abandon all of that so the story can end on a cliché race to the airport. This is really disappointing. What starts out in the neighborhood of (500) Days of Summer ends up in hokey Maid of Honor territory. The clichés are made worse by the characters’—and by extension the filmmakers’—trivial regard for marriage. Rarely has a mainstream movie so demeaned and trivialized marriage as seen in I Give It a Year and the actions of the characters are so random and inane that at some point the movie actually inspires contempt.
Bottom Line: I Give It a Year has enough bright spots that viewers who eat up romantic comedies will probably want to check it out, if only for its first half. But the filmmakers spoil their lead with a lousy latter half, resulting in a movie that is really disappointing and at times annoying.
Episode: #450 (August 4, 2013)