I Give It A Year
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 24 February 2013
It’s all the go nowadays to write rom-coms that aren’t very romantic at all, where lovers are at each others’ throats (This is 40) or splitting up (Celeste and Jesse Forever). This brainchild from the makers of Love Actually and Bridget Jones’ Diary has embraced the bittersweet tone of the moment, pitching a cold Rose Byrne against a foppish Rafe Spall as newlyweds who may not make it to their first anniversary.
Juxtaposed with scenes of marriage counselling under the tutelage of a frighteningly inappropriate Olivia Coleman, are flashbacks to Josh and Nat’s courting days, the wedding (complete with hilarious first dance), and the intervening months when each has his or her eye turned by an outsider.
A supporting cast of misanthropes and idiots (Minnie Driver’s unveiled disdain for her husband provides surprising laughs) follow the usual clichéd Love Actually format, but in some scenes I laughed like a drain. People will say that Stephen Merchant is just playing himself, but even Merchant playing Merchant is inherently funny. You may long to see something new, but he has a knack for eliciting an inadvertent laugh-out-loud response from his audience, with his seemingly oblivious faux-pas and idiotic bumbling (“You’re a real eight out of ten – and I mean that sincerely” he tells a frosty Nat at her wedding.)
However, at heart (although with this film there’s not much of that) this is Rafe Spall’s hour. Fresh from Life of Pi it’s clearly Spall’s time for a leading role. His everyman boyfriend who tries hard to be a good husband doesn’t stand a chance against the wildly unsympathetic Byrne, but Spall wins our hearts by managing to make even the obligatory crass sexual comedy quite bearable.
I Give it a Year manages many things well, contributing a worthy British offering to the not-very-rom-com genre.