The attempt to bring some originality and creativity to the romantic comedy genre has mixed success in “I Give It a Year,” the London-set directorial debut from “Borat”/”Bruno” screenwriter Dan Mazer. There’s some very funny stuff on the margins, but overall it’s pretty weak.
While many modern rom-coms have the couple spending the entire movie waiting to get together, in this film they get together right at the beginning. Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne), meet and quickly marry, even though none of their friends think it’s a particularly good idea.
Before long, Nat soon finds herself tempted by a rich American businessman (Simon Baker), while Josh starts to develop feelings for an old friend (Anna Faris, wearing a truly unfortunate wig in an unsuccessful attempt to make her look “mousy.”)
The movie has room for some pretty creative physical gags, and stumbles upon some humorous truths about the difficulty of modern marriage. But where it’s heading at the end is pretty obvious early on, and the way it executes its ending is awkward bordering on painful.
Spall, who played the writer in the framing device in “Life of Pi,” is kind of a cipher as the leading man, and while Byrne has played deep, multifaceted characters before, she doesn’t hear. The most appealing character by far is Faris’, even though the movie ludicrously hides her attractiveness behind that wig and wardrobe.
This is another romantic comedy that tries to amp up the laughs with a supporting cast of semi-big names. Stephen Merchant is on board as Spall’s appalling best friend, a guy who’s a little bit too much of an aggressive schmuck to actually be funny. Meanwhile, the long-unseen Minnie Driver pops up in a part that’s shades of Leslie Mann in “Knocked Up”- the female lead’s vicious sister, who hates her husband so much that their marriage functions as a cautionary tale for the main couple.
As you may have noticed, there just aren’t that many romantic comedies anymore. The genre seems to have fallen out of favor, and a big part of that is that there aren’t that many more creative places to take it. I admire “I Give It a Year” for at least trying something new, but it ultimately falls a bit short.