Directed and written by Sacha Baron Cohen’s long term collaborator, Dan Mazer, the man behind the ingenious screenplay for Borat, I Give It a Year is a British comedy that delivers on the laughs, but leaves little to warm the heart.
The film begins with the wedding of easygoing author Josh (Rafe Spall) and high achiever and materialist Nat (Rose Byrne). They appear to have the perfect romance, but it soon becomes apparent that the only people not to recognise their incompatibility are the couple themselves. Both start to find flaws in one another that they are not comfortable living with, culminating in the pair unintentionally stumbling across their perfect potential partners.
Comedic elements throughout are delivered to perfection by a highly skilled and experienced cast. This is particularly aimed at the performance delivered by The Office‘s Stephen Merchant, who plays the stereotypically inappropriate best man without fault. Initially slow to start, I Give It a Year gets better as the relationship between the characters of Spall and Byrne begins to deteriorate. The couple’s growing distaste in one another’s habits provides much entertainment, and in this aspect Mazer shows originality by avoiding the overworked gender dilemma of the toilet seat being left up. The breakdown of romance signals the introduction of the half-hearted attempt at trying to fix their relationship by seeing an eccentric marriage counselor played by Olivia Coleman, best known as Sophie Chapman in Peep Show.
More trouble is hurled into the mix with the introduction of Anna Faris as Spall’s new love interest, diverging from her usual ditzy and unintentionally hilarious character. After a few scenes with her, the novelty begins to wear off. It seems Faris has been typecast here as a result of her success in comedy.Unfortunately, in this more serious role she fails to shine.
Big names such as Minnie Driver and Jason Flemyng play an outwardly disaffected couple. Flemyng, for the most part, is not used at all to his ability, while Driver has too much screen time and the one-dimensional bitter wife character quickly becomes wearisome. After many repeatedly fruitless tiffs, you may begin to ask yourself whether they were necessary to the story at all. The brief moment of romance between the them, presumably to convey a comforting message that all couples love each other deep down, is without conviction and falls flat on its face.
Mazer fails to forge any form of emotional attachment between the audience and the characters. Lacking such a relationship rips the heart from the British comedy and replaces it with a large number of taboo jokes. That is not to say these jokes are not entertaining; indeed they are, however they do not add any substance. Praise must go to Mazer, however, for bringing new settings to the usual comic scenarios, particularly the boardroom scene where a smooth and charismatic American woos Byrne’s character, complete with two white doves and a violinist.
If you are looking for a comedy with some lasting impact, I Give It a Year may not be for you. The jokes are lighthearted but it fails to match the likes of previous Valentine’s releases such as Love Actually.