A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Watching "I Give It a Year," a new romantic comedy directed by Dan Mazer (he also wrote the screenplay), is a bizarre experience. It's not romantic in the slightest, and it is quite comedic on occasion, but the parts don't fit together at all. It jerks along on its own jagged trajectory, with a silly soul dying to burst through and take over but never quite succeeding, and the end result is truly strange. "I Give It a Year" is clearly not interested in the common clichés of the genre, although said clichés are present and acknowledged. The title alone clues us in to the film's attitude about the marriage in question. The cast is terrific (from the leads down to those who have one or two lines), and there are a couple of sequences that made me laugh out loud, but the movie as a whole is baffling.
The opening sequence shows a montage of a whirlwind relationship between Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne). They marry seven months after their first meeting. During the wedding ceremony, the priest has a coughing fit before he can say the words "husband and wife," and Minnie Driver, who gives a deliciously bitter performance as Naomi, Nat's sister, murmurs to her husband, "I give it a year."
Surrounding the couple is a merry band of characters from the rom-com playbook. There is Danny, Josh's best friend, played by Ricky Gervais's long-time creative partner, Stephen Merchant. Danny brings the "inappropriate best man speech" to a new level of awkwardness, and you have to wonder about Josh's character that he would choose such a moron as a friend. Naomi and her husband (Jason Flemyng) live in a coiled state of mutual disdain. When Nat asks her sister for marriage advice, Naomi says with a supportive smile, "Embrace the hatred." Josh's ex-girlfriend Chloe (played by Anna Faris) is an American ex-pat who works for a charity fighting epidemics in Africa. Josh and Chloe have remained friends, although the dismayed look on Chloe's face during the wedding reception is eloquent of unfinished business.
Josh is a novelist. He can't seem to finish his next book and spends his days lying around playing video games. Nat works as an executive in an ad agency, and is competent and driven. There is a class critique in the film. Nat says to someone that she was accustomed to driving Ferraris, and Josh represents a "Volvo," and, rather despicably, "I just needed to be behind the wheel of a Volvo for a while." There is no honeymoon period. Instantly upon getting married, Nat seethes with resentment about toilet seats being left up and who takes out the trash. Before Nat and Josh reach their one-year anniversary, they are in couples counseling, a device used to frame the storyline. As artificial as the device is, Olivia Colman is hysterical as the embittered man-hating couples counselor.