The British “unromantic comedy” I Give It a Year is an uneven, but quite often laugh out loud funny that tries to marry the kind of chick flick claptrap that production company Working Title churns out on a regular basis (Love Actually, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ Diary) with a Farrelly Brother’s styled American comedy that relies heavily on awkwardness, dirty entendres, and the occasional gross out gag. It sticks the second half of that statement, and the film certainly has a lot of heart. But since Working Title is still the production company at the helm, contrivance and unwarranted sappiness taint the proceedings at sometimes inopportune moments.
Writer Josh (Rafe Spall) and advertising executive Nat (Rose Byrne) have gotten married after dating for only seven months. Their short courtship before deciding to spend their lives together almost immediately results in a rift between the couple. Petty squabbles soon give way to wandering eyes when Josh realizes he still has feelings for his human rights advocated ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris) and Nat finds herself drawn to an overly flirtatious cleaning supplies magnate (Simon Baker) that she’s pretending to be single around in a bid to land his business at her firm.
For the first half, at least writer and director Dan Mazar (best known as Sacha Baron Cohen’s most frequent collaborator and writing partner) comes up with snappy gags and jokes that make the time breeze by. There’s a hilariously botched wedding featuring the most obnoxious and unfunny best man possible (Stephen Merchant) , an awkward attempted threesome, a bit with a digital picture frame that somehow includes both vacation and bedroom photos, and doves being unwisely unleashed in a hotel room. All of it is quite funny, but while the film doesn’t find a way to cop out and give a neat, tidy conclusion, the road leading to it starts to get bumpy.
The actual relationship dynamic between Josh and Nat feels half baked. It might be part of the point since they don’t seem to have known each other long enough to warrant getting married, but both of them are also sketches of human beings that rarely extend beyond what they do for a living. A subplot involving the pair seeking couples therapy (at the hands of Olivia Coleman’s disdainful shrink) feels like it was meant to be a framing device at one point, but has since been chopped down and scattered about willy nilly like it’s filler. Merchant seems to have had his role cut out almost entirely, as evidenced by a credits crawl featuring outtakes from a scene that never made it into the final cut of the film to begin with. Ditto Minnie Driver as a mutual friend who seemingly can’t tolerate anyone other than herself. Furthermore, the slackness of the narrative doesn’t do Mazar any favours when he suddenly makes the unwise decision to take the relationships at the heart of his film seriously.
While it’s a mess to watch, at least it’s a consistently funny mess that gets most of the way on the likeability and chemistry of its leads and the game, silly supporting characters. Faris gets most of the dramatic work here (aside from the aforementioned threesome sequence) and she makes the most of it by being the most likable and saintly of the bunch. Baker looks like he’s having a great deal of fun as a slickster who doesn’t like taking no for an answer without making some kind of hangdog expression. But it all ultimately works because despite their characters’ shortcomings on the page, Byrne and Spall are able to craft a couple worthy of rooting for; not because you want to see them get back together, but because it’s easy to wish either of them well with anyone else. It’s far from perfect, but it still has its charms. For a late summer time killer one could do far worse.