Friday, October 4, 2013

I Give It a Year

Last month, I saw I Give It a Year at the Landmark Opera Plaza.  Since the Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinemas closed for renovations, I've been going more often to the Opera Plaza and oddly, the Guild in Menlo Park.

I Give It a Year starring Rose Byrne & Rafe Spall; with Anna Faris & Simon Baker; directed by Dan Mazer; (2013) - Official Website

It's a shame that I Give It a Year didn't do better box office.  I found the rom-com to be extremely funny.  It was relatively innovative but very well executed.

Nat (Rose Byrne looking stunning) and Josh (Rafe Spall) are newlyweds.  After a whirlwind romance, they get married as the film opens.  It's obvious they aren't well suited for each other but I thought it was going be one of these "love conquers all" films.  Quickly, the plot turns towards the ultimate pairings.  Josh's ex-girlfriend Chloe (Anna Faris) is still part of their circle of friends.  Conveniently, Josh has forgotten to mention that he and Chloe used to date.  That piece of news is revealed during a dinner party by Josh's best friend Dan (Stephen Merchant).  Merchant and Minnie Driver as Nat's older sister steal the film with their trenchant and hilarious comments.  Merchant's Dan is the most gauche cinematic sidekick I can recall off the top of my head.  Driver's Naomi is an unmitigated harpy until the end; constantly belittling her husband and denigrating the institution of marriage.

It's clear that Josh still has feeling towards Chloe and eventually vice versa.  Nat should be concerned but she has a new client at work (she works at an ad agency).  Rich, handsome, intelligent and immediately interested in Nat, Guy (Simon Baker) seems like the perfect match.  At one point, Nat even denies knowing Josh to Guy because she is embarrassed by his behavior.  Nat & Josh eventually see a marriage counselor (Olivia Colman) whose advice is suspect given her own obvious marital problems.

As you can see, everything is pointing to a breakup. However, Nat & Josh are bad people.  They are just mismatched.  Both of them commit to making their marriage work.  They break off their budding relationships with Chloe & Guy.  Indeed, Chloe & Guy even start dating.  Just when I wondered which way the film would turn, Josh & Nat mutually agree to divorce at a dinner party celebrating their one year wedding anniversary.  Separately, they rush to meet Chloe & Guy, respectively.  Nat & Josh find Guy & Chloe on a train platform headed for the Chunnel.  After some initial awkwardness and surprise at their choice of partners, the swap occurs and the cameras pans out to the two couples kissing.

I Give It a Year is a film which consists of several tremendous scenes of cheeky British humor.  The opening scene where Dan gives his supremely awkward best man's toast kicks it off in high style.  Other memorable scenes include a game of charades where Driver is relentless in attacking her husband, Guy's attempt at romance with Nat which ends badly for a dove and an aborted ménage à trois involving Chloe and two of her co-workers.  If it were just that, the film would be worth seeing but the filmmakers make a game attempt at evolving the rom-com genre.  They're not fully successful but I appreciate the effort and the skill of the cast and director Dan Mazer.

The casting was great and I recognized many of the faces.  Rose Byrne was Kristin Wiig's rival in Bridesmaids.  Simon Baker stars in The Mentalist on CBS which I have never seen.  I've recently started seeing commercials for Stephen Merchant's new series (Hello Ladies) on HBO.

I Give It a Year is a very funny film and exceeded all my expectations.  This is no Hugh Grant comedy.  I chuckled for the rest of the evening at some of the scenes from I Give It a Year.

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