As Britcoms go, I Give It A Year is certainly an acquired taste. Advertisements for the film noted as much: “A new comedy from the writer of Borat and the producers of Love Actually and Bridget Jones’ Diary.” Throughout its short, 97-minute running time, I Give It A Year attempts to balance its makers’ strikingly different styles of comedy, to varying degrees of success. And though its romantic side leaves something to be desired, I Give It A Year‘s consistently, riotously funny script is ultimately enough to make up for its flaws.
The film subverts typical romcom formula by picking up after the fairytale wedding of Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall), which comes after only six months of dating. Their union sparks disbelief from friends and relatives, none of whom believe the newlyweds can withstand the pressures of marriage for long. As their first anniversary draws closer, marital bliss gives way to the daily grind, and the two begin to question the very basis of their relationship. With Nat’s handsome American client Guy (Simon Baker) and Josh’s ex-girlfriend Chloe (Anna Faris) presenting attractive alternatives, can the newlyweds make it to a year?
I Give It A Year is certainly more of a comedy than a romance, and the jokes start flying almost immediately. A disastrous speech by doltish, bumbling best man Danny (Stephen Merchant) is reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen’s cringe-worthy humor in Borat and made all the better by the horrified expressions of partygoers. The film has a noticeably dirtier mind than other recent romcoms, with graphic sexual humor permeating nearly every scene. Merchant’s character certainly yields the most belly laughs of anyone in I Give It A Year, but most of the main cast is also remarkably adept at finding the human side beneath the script’s raunch.
Out of the four leads, Faris is most worthy of our praise; almost unrecognizable under baggy sweaters and tousled brown hair, she brings warmth and depth to a part that could have easily been one-dimensional in the hands of a less-skilled actress. As an American ex-pat who tacitly ended things with Josh by volunteering for four years of aid work in Africa, only to return with complicated feelings for the new groom, Faris is never less than believable and sympathetic. Chloe’s not out to destroy Josh’s marriage, but she also struggles to hide her feelings for him in logical, albeit hilarious ways. She is, without a doubt, the film’s brightest spot.
Surprisingly, Spall and Byrne are the least enjoyable characters in I Give It A Year. Spall makes the mistake of transforming Josh into a loud-mouthed man-child, lacking any social grace or sweetness. Josh mostly grows more grating as the film progresses, and it’s hard to comprehend what Chloe would see in him. Having a lead actor deficient in both charisma and sex appeal is dangerous, especially for a romantic comedy. Luckily, a few scenes, including one memorably lewd debacle involving a digital photo frame, elevate the film by smartly relying more on Spall’s abilities as a comedian than as a romantic hero.
Byrne, by comparison, plays Nat too straight. There’s nothing particularly alluring, unique or likable about the character, and she differs from Josh so significantly that a second date between the two is hard for me to swallow, let alone a whirlwind romance. Byrne’s utter lack of chemistry with Spall seriously hurts their credibility as a newlywed couple. Nat’s relationship with Guy is also painfully predictable, though thankfully less stilted. Baker’s sparkling on-screen presence carries their scenes together, but his performance alone is not enough to salvage the otherwise tedious nature of their courtship.
The most valuable players in I Give It A Year are its beguilingly blunt supporting characters. Merchant supplies a jolt of insensitive raunch in his achingly funny scenes, crossing every line of social decency imaginable with an endearing rapscallion charm. Minnie Driver is terrifically acerbic as Nat’s sour sister Naomi, who gives the film its frank title in a moment of blistering, bitter cynicism. Meanwhile, Jason Flemyng makes the most of his few scenes as Naomi’s abused, forbearing husband Hugh. Olivia Colman is also hysterical as Linda, a jaded, man-hating marriage counselor who quickly turns out to be in more of a state of emotional shambles than the couples she advises.
As the film rolls on towards its predictably ludicrous conclusion, it soon becomes clear that I Give It A Year is half of a terrific romantic comedy. That is, as a no-holds-barred raunchfest, the film is splendidly naughty fun, unafraid to present its characters at their most disturbingly, offensively human. I Give It A Year had me in stitches repeatedly, and one scene involving a humiliating threesome is an instant classic. However, the romantic side of I Give It A Year is disappointingly bland. None of the central love stories are very convincing or enjoyable to watch, and director Dan Mazer makes the ill-advised choice to impress unimaginative romance on his audience, more persistently in the film’s final third.
Perhaps I Give It A Year is its own worst enemy; it wants to be both a sweet romance and a bawdy comedy but never finds a compelling way to bring its two halves together. The resulting disharmony isn’t much fun for romcom lovers, though those who enjoy the film’s outrageous, smutty brand of farcical humor will likely forgive it.
As for the Blu-Ray itself, the disc’s 1080p transfer is more than distinct and clear enough to please viewers, with details crisp and colors suitably saturated. A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is clean enough to make all dialogue understandable while preserving background sound effects. Collectors won’t find any issues with the great transfer done on this film.
I Give It A Year comes with a decent set of special features that are as follows:
- Blooper Reel
- Outtakes: The Doves
- Deleted/Extended Scenes
- Making of I Give It A Year: Relationships & Marriages
- Making of I Give It A Year: The Characters
- Cast and Crew Interviews
- International Interviews
Out of that wide range, only a few of the special features are really worth exploring. While the Blooper Reel is mostly a bust, Outtakes: The Doves provides a side-splitting look at the filming of one of the film’s most uproarious scenes. Byrne attempts (and fails) to retain her composure when swarmed by two large doves, to the delight of the rest of the crew, and though you feel a little bad for the clearly terrified actress, it’s definitely the funniest special feature.
Surprisingly, the Deleted/Extended Scenes include a very raunchy bedroom scene between Byrne and Spall’s characters, though it’s easy to see why the less-than-stellar scene didn’t make the final cut. The rest of the scenes presented in this feature are mostly unnecessary, explanatory material that gives Faris’ character more depth in particular.
The ‘Making Of’ special features are presented as trailers, each a little over a minute-long, with little new information. Surprisingly, footage that never made it into the film is advertised in these trailers, which left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Still, keep an eye out for some insightful commentary from Flemyng.
As for the ‘Interview’ segments, those really intrigued by what the actors thought about the themes of I Give It A Year should check them out, but only a few interesting snippets of dialogue pop up throughout the whole lot. Though Mazer’s claims about how I Give It A Year will change the face of romantic comedy seem a little premature, there are certainly enough diverting tidbits in the interviews to satisfy the film’s most fervent admirers.
Look, here’s what it really comes down to: if you’re looking for gut-busting, envelope-pushing dialogue, I Give It A Year delivers in spades. Just don’t expect your romantically-inclined date to come away with as wide a grin.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.
Though it's decidedly uneven and far from perfect, I Give It A Year is still a refreshingly risqué comedy that boasts a handful of great performances.