Regular Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator, Dan Mazer’s self-penned London rom-com has all the makings of another Love Actually lite; an impressive ensemble all smiling their well-honed faces off on the posters, all playing characters with ridiculously unattainable lifestyles, and all experiencing un-relatable problems. Well cynics be damned, because despite requiring a huge reality check, this is littered with laugh out loud moments that smother the more silly aspects of the story, to result in something that’s guaranteed to slap a smile on the front of your face.
Josh (Spall) and Nat (Byrne) enter feet first into a shotgun wedding mere months after exchanging looks across the room at a party. This prompts pessimistic predictions that they’ll last a year from the assorted guests, who include socially inept best man (Stephen Merchant), loud mouthed house wife (Minnie Driver), her put-upon husband (Jason Flemyng), and Josh’s ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris).
The film charts their tumultuous year together whilst they attend marriage counselling sessions in the hope that they can prove the doubters wrong. Possibly a misplaced intention, as Nat’s desire to land a lucrative contract at work gets mixed up with her desire for the man proposing it, Simon Baker’s ultra-suave investor. A dilemma that runs concurrent with Josh’s continued procrastination about writing his second novel, time it seems he’d rather spend with his ex.
Hardly sounds like a plot from the man behind the genius of Borat, or the heightened crudity of Bruno, does it? Well Mazer has the trump card of being able to hang some hilarious jokes off of the lightweight narrative, and the language remains colourful throughout.
This is largely thanks to Stephen Merchant’s film stealing performance; referencing Michael Jackson during the end credits, sleazily attempting to pull Anna Faris, and performing one of the most excruciatingly funny best man’s speeches, anyone familiar with Merchant’s routine will recognise his shtick, and its spread evenly throughout the film to ensure it stays fresh.
Spall does leading man well enough, though Josh isn’t your typical rom-com stud, he has a litany of annoying character traits which make him quite unlikeable, so it’s testament to the young actor that he gets away with it. Byrne is sweet and thoroughly convincing as an English gal, and her flirtations with the likeable Baker are probably the most successful relationship thread in the movie.
But for all of the love rectangle shenanigans of the plot, what the film is sorely missing is heart. Once all of the pieces fall into place, you’re left in some doubt as to whether those who have been paired off are suited to eachother. There is no real chemistry between any of the leads despite the comedic sparks that fly back and forth.
I Give It a Year is one for the Friday night crowd; guaranteed to exercise the funny bone more than the brain, and whilst not the “British Bridesmaids” the marketing department might want you to believe it to be, the superb cast wholeheartedly impress, even if the relationships don’t.