Dir/scr: Dan Mazer. UK. 2013. 97mins
Dan Mazer’s smart, witty and occasionally plain hilarious film goes some way to proving that the British rom-com is far from dead…in fact if I Give It A Year is anything to go by Mazer is a safe pair of hands when it comes to delivering a delicious blend of British humour that veers engagingly between bawdy and romantic. A strong cast and a good pre-Valentine’s Day release slot should help word of mouth as the film rolls out through Europe.
Dan Mazer smartly also layers in some blunter moments of comedy – from Stephen Merchant (from the UK version of The Office) as Josh’s blundering best man Danny and Minnie Driver as Nat’s shrewish sister Naomi – to sit alongside the more traditional rom-com humour, and they liven up proceedings very nicely.
The lack of real A-list talent may hamper its ability to completely break-out, but one shouldn’t bet against the comedy skills – and sheer sex-appeal – of Rose Byrne and Anna Faris, who work perfectly alongside Brit Rafe Spall (who seems to have matured into his leading man duties) and Simon Baker (whose chiselled good looks helped make him a star with TV’s The Mentalist). There is a strong supporting cast to back up Mazer’s directorial debut, while the astutely used central London locations add to the film’s sense of cool.
Dan Mazer has worked extensively with Sacha Baron Cohen (co-scripting Borat and Bruno and executive producing The Dictator), and has an extensive background in scripting comedy, but while I Give It A Year has a smattering of outrageously smutty moments, its appeal is that it is also warm, witty, generous and brimming with terrific one-line gags.
The film opens – rather than ends - with a wedding. High-flyer Nat (Byrne) and would-be writer Josh (Spall) have had a whirlwind romance and despite their differences there is a spark between them. The wedding is a dream come true – despite the overly near-the-knuckle speech by his best man (Stephen Merchant) – and the young couple settle down to their new life together.
Except it doesn’t seem to be working quite as well as either thought it would. They see a counsellor (a nicely quirky cameo from Olivia Colman), and while it is clear they don’t quite fit together as well as they had hoped they still want to make things work. Friends on the other hand ‘give it a year’.
Things get even more complicated when Josh’s ex-girlfriend Chloe (Faris) starts spending more time with him, while at the same time Nat’s new wealthy and handsome new business client Guy (Baker) starts to take a keen interest in her. With their first anniversary approaching it starts to dawn on both of them that perhaps they didn’t make the right romantic choices after all…but can their marriage make it to the end of a full year.
Rose Byrne has proved in films such as Bridesmaids and Get Him To The Greek that she is a natural at comedy, and she is a delight as the beautiful, demanding, organised and elegant Nat, moving with a natural grace and delivering her lines with ease. She is nicely complement by Rafe Spall, so often the comedy side kick in films such as One Day, he has an easy charm and is funny and wry as the engagingly unambitious Josh.
To an extent both characters would come across as less than sympathetic on paper so it is to the pair’s credit that that they imbue Nat and Josh with charm and honesty. They went into their marriage with the best of intentions, but somehow it just wasn’t meant to be.
Things are nicely mixed up by the arrival of Chloe and Guy on the scene. Anna Faris (who worked with Mazer on The Dictator) is engagingly cast as the slightly grungy and desperately well-meaning Chloe, while Australian actor Simon Baker brings an old-fashioned sense of civility and buttoned-up sophistication to the role. The nice thing with I Give It A Year is that none of the characters are perfect or simplistically drawn individuals, but it is their flaws that give the film its humanity and charm.
Dan Mazer smartly also layers in some blunter moments of comedy – from Stephen Merchant (from the UK version of The Office) as Josh’s blundering best man Danny and Minnie Driver as Nat’s shrewish sister Naomi – to sit alongside the more traditional rom-com humour, and they liven up proceedings very nicely. There are some delightfully written and bitingly honest lines, though the biggest laughs come from a scene when Nat and Josh are given an electronic photo frame by her parents and immediately link it up with their camera to show their honeymoon snaps…which happen to include a few rather explicit ones of them having sex.
Production company: Working Title Films
International sales: StudioCanal, www.studiocanal.com
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Kris Thykier
Executive producers: Liza Chasin, Debra Hayward
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Editor: Tony Cranstoun
Production designer: Simon Elliott
Music: Ilan Eshkeri
Main cast: Rose Byrne, Rafe Spall, Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Stephen Merchant, Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Olivia Colman