Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Sexual Content, Language and some Graphic Nudity
Directed by: Dan Mazer
Written by: Dan Mazer
Starring: Rose Byrne, Rafe Spall, Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Stephen Merchant, Minnie Driver & Jason Flemyng
Romantic comedies are among the most formulaic films ever made. The “will they or won’t they” dynamic has been played out a million times. 99% of these cinematic stories follow a predictable progression of events that ends in an inevitable conclusion of the two mismatched lovers confessing their love and staying together. There’s 1% of rom-coms that attempt to do something different and these are titles that stick out in the overcrowded genre. I GIVE IT A YEAR is one of these gems that sticks out. It’s not free of clichés and not every joke hits its mark, but a delightfully irreverent sense of humor and the subversion of an all-too-familiar formula make for one very entertaining comedy.
I GIVE IT A YEAR begins where most rom-coms end. Hard-working businesswoman Nat (Rose Byrne) and laid-back writer Josh (Rafe Spall) are polar opposites that have fallen head over heels for each other. After dating for only seven months, the couple decide to tie the knot…much to the disbelief of their friends and relatives. Things seem to be lovely for the newlyweds, but cracks soon begin to emerge in their relationship. The already strained marriage is further put to the test when Josh’s old flame Chloe (Anna Faris) reenters his life and Nat starts a partnership with a charismatic client (Simon Baker). Can Nat and Josh survive their first year of marriage?
I GIVE IT A YEAR mixes loads of wildly inappropriate laughs with genuine heart and (mostly) smart writing. The married couple’s struggles are shown with believably awkward humor that will make viewers laugh, cover their eyes in embarrassment, and shift uncomfortably in their seats. Think a very R-rated version of something like MEET THE PARENTS and you have a solid idea of this film’s tone. The storyline frequently cuts back to Nat and Josh in a marriage counselor’s office, which allows for lots of hilarious comedic flashbacks. These bits that would have seemed slightly disconnected in a traditional narrative flow, but they work well in this non-linear approach.
Besides having lots of great funny moments, this film also levels a degree seriousness into the struggling couple’s problems. Not every awkward moment gets a laugh (though there are still plenty of those) because the film reflects on the sadder aspects of a marriage that simply isn’t working and regrets of other (possibly better) relationships that might have been. Besides functioning as a solid rom-com, I GIVE IT A YEAR also serves as a wonderful cautionary tale about rushing into things too soon. This point is hammered on a tad too sappily during a slow 10-minute stretch in the last act, but concludes in a genuinely hilarious finale that deliberately flips rom-com conventions on their heads in unexpected ways.
As far as performances go, everyone here is hilarious and earns more than their fair share of laughs. Rose Byrne (who was great in both NEIGHBORS films) is quiet and reserved as Nat, letting awkward silences and her facial expressions speak far louder than words. Rafe Spall is convincing as a bumbling oaf who’s simply out of his league in a stressful newfound marriage. Anna Faris is refreshingly down to earth as a dorky gal and gets huge laughs when she tries/fails to get involved in a threesome. Simon Baker plays his suave businessman as an overconfident guy with a good heart. Interactions between the four main characters feel natural and these performers bounce off each other in fun ways.
On the supporting side of things, Stephen Merchant receives a few standout scenes as the worst best friend/best man ever. If nothing else, look up Merchant’s wedding scenes on YouTube to catch two of the film’s funniest bits. His delivery and shameless way of saying horrible things (without realizing they’re horrible) is simply brilliant! Also worth mentioning are Minnie Driver and Jason Flemyng as Nat’s sister and brother-in-law. Driver and Flemyng are essentially the British version of Paul Rudd and Leslie Jones in KNOCKED UP, adding great scenes of sheer animosity and beautifully summarizing how marriages work between individuals that seemingly loathe each other on the surface.
I GIVE IT A YEAR isn’t a flawless rom-com. A dull patch in the final third feels more like a formulaic obligation than a necessity, not every joke gets a big laugh, and there are still dusty clichés in the mix. However, those clichés are thrown into unexpected context that flips every predictable rom-com storyline on its head. The script is clever for the most part, the characters are fleshed out, and there are loads of laughs to be had. I was constantly cracking up and many scenes nailed their comedic timing to perfection. I GIVE IT A YEAR is a great date movie for fans of awkward humor, R-rated sex comedies, and hilariously offensive jokes.