Take the awkwardness of your best man giving an embarrassing and offensive speech at your wedding, your parents seeing your secret X-rated honeymoon photos and your marriage counselor using puppets to ask you about your sex life, and you’ve got just a fraction of the delightful, teeth-grinding awkwardness that is “I Give It a Year.”
Written and directed by “Borat” writer Dan Mazer, “I Give It a Year” takes all the romantic comedy tropes and stereotypes (I’m looking at you, Hugh Grant) and turns them on their heads. In the film, Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall star as Nat and Josh, a couple who, after meeting at a party, get married a mere seven months later. The only problem is that in addition to their short-lived courtship, their personalities are completely different: Nat is a serious and ambitious career woman, and Josh is a doofy struggling writer.
As the suited masterminds behind Disney movies and the formulaic, saccharine Hollywood rom-coms have led us to believe, sometimes opposites attract, and people find love at first sight and live happily ever after. And sometimes you get a 97-minute-long reality check that kicks those notions to the curb with a boot full of humor and irony.
As Nat and Josh prepare to embark on their journey of what they think will be marital bliss, their friends and family all think that it won’t last past the first year. Indeed, Nat and Josh start getting on each other’s nerves because of their quirks and personality differences. Their marriage gets even more tenuous when Chloe (Anna Farris), Josh’s ex-girlfriend who he never officially broke up with, and charming American businessman Guy (Simon Baker) show up. With the tension building in their relationship and the temptation of what may be their actual perfect matches, Nat and Josh must figure out what to do with their marriage.
Like the couple’s family and friends, we know it’s a mistake from the beginning and wonder how the couple even ended up in the situation to begin with. They don’t know each other at all, and the actors themselves as leads don’t have any chemistry, making the whole situation even less believable. Mazer could have just settled with one extramarital temptation, but he went above and beyond, providing the mousey Farris and the magnetic Baker to tempt the couple’s wandering eyes. Chloe, a kind charity worker who never fell out of love with Josh, doesn’t have much charm or appeal, and Farris’ acting falls flat. Baker does what he does best and works his swoon-worthy charm and laughable over-the-top romanticism.
“I Give It a Year” valiantly takes all the cuteness of the rom-com genre and replaces it with awkward situation upon awkward situation instead. Stephen Merchant, as Josh’s friend and best man Danny, is hilariously offensive and uncomfortable on multiple levels—from his racial stereotypes to his sexual jokes and overall creepiness. The marriage counselor, humorously played by Olivia Colman, is unapologetically rude, cynical and unprofessional. Minnie Driver also brings some laughs as Nat’s sister Naomi, who has plenty of her own marital hatred to pass around.
The film moves quickly and is consistent in its jokes and tone. While it does embrace the tone of a would-be anti-rom-com, it doesn’t completely escape the genre it is so eager to make fun of. Still, “I Give It a Year” is awkward, funny and definitely more honest—and consequentially, more satisfying—than many rom-coms aspire to be. “I Give It a Year” is now playing at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, 143 E. Houston St.