British anti-rom-com ‘I Give It a Year’ is excruciatingly awful
Coming from frequent Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator Dan Mazer, a supposed intent of British film I Give It a Year was to provide a subversion of the traditional romantic comedy. It starts off, where many of those films end, with a swift union, in this case a marriage, and follows that initially happy couple as it becomes apparent that they’re not at all suited for one another in the long-term. It’s a comedy about romance, if you will, rather than a strict romantic comedy, though it still wallows in all the clichés of the worst of mainstream romantic comedies, and there’s absolutely no enjoyment to be derived from its attempts at humour.
Rafe Spall’s Josh and Rose Byrne’s Nat are the newlyweds, following a whirlwind romance of just a few months, though what the basis of their connection actually is is something never detailed; their pre-wedding days are relegated to a minute-long, dialogue-free, bland pop accompanied montage of dates that opens the film. This is of course meant to be a film about a failing marriage, but Josh and Nat are chemistry-free even in the wedding scenes, where they already seem bored with each other from the offset. There’s no allure, however minimal, to even get invested in their dilemma, and the characters never transcend their lazy stereotypes: he’s a slovenly, immature boor, and she’s shallow, uptight, extremely fashion-conscious and, of course, involved in PR.
I Give It a Year attempts a hybrid of the two most popular, contemporary sources behind mainstream romantic comedies of varying commercial and critical success: Richard Curtis and Judd Apatow. There’s all the loud and foul mouthed cynicism of characters from the former’s productions, and the Curtis trope American love interests, but without any charm or wit. Apatow’s influence, meanwhile, is in the film’s excruciating attempts at prolonged, seemingly improvised sequences of riffing from popular comedians or character actors. Whether through being tedious or offensively unfunny, practically none of the often reliable set of performers assembled here emerge unscathed, with Olivia Colman notably dire as a stock incompetent therapist, while Stephen Merchant as Josh’s staggeringly awful best friend (and man) reaches a career nadir.
Despite being so rampantly free of charisma or wit (Hey kids, middle-aged people kissing in public is gross; bad dancing is embarrassing; impromptu threesomes can be awkward!), the film’s woefulness might have avoided being so outright loathsome were it not for a frankly unsettling, recurring fascination with jokes about sexual violence against women. I Give It a Year isn’t just a terrible comedy, it’s a repellent bit of vileness.
I Give It a Year is currently on wide release in the UK, and is set to make its North American premiere at SXSW.