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Film Review: I Give It a Year

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There is a line in I Give it a Year, in which one of the peripheral characters describes the wedding they've just been to as "like being in a Hugh Grant film".  It's a strange line; it indicates either that the film is wryly acknowledging its own derivativeness, or that it's having a pop at the old guard of British romantic comedies.  After a few minutes, it appears that is the latter, but if Dan Mazer's love-square romcom is trying to be subversive, it has failed. Spectacularly. It features almost every staple of the 90's Britcom whilst simultaneously believing that it is above them, but luckily that doesn't mean that there isn't fun to be had along the way.  The story focuses on a young, newly-married couple (Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne) whose haste to tie the knot has resulted in a loveless mismatch of a marriage, punctuated by ferocious rows, a depleted sex-life and the constant temptation of infidelity. The story is told in flash back from the office of a similarly embittered marriage councillor (Olivia Colman) as the pair begin to deliberate as to whether their marriage is worth saving.

The jokes come thick and fast, as you might expect from the man behind Ali G and Borat. As is the status quo these days, the best material has been given away by the promotional material, but it as nice to see a Working Title romcom with a little more bite than the Richard Curtis films I Give it a Year is trying so desperately to disassociate itself from. However, what Curtis always understood, is that an audience is a lot more willing to laugh at/with character in whom they have invested. The characters in I Give it a Year have few redeeming qualities, with the exception of Anna Faris' quirky charity worker, Chloe.  The usually affable Spall is buffoonish and irritating, and Rose Byrne's icy, career-driven Nat is almost completely unsympathetic.  By the time we get to the cloyingly predictable dénouement, I couldn't care less who goes off with whom, as long as they all go off together.

There are many jokes that hit the target, with Minnie Driver and Jason Flemyng providing good support as the bickering archetype of a marriage gone wrong, and Stephen Merchant gives a scene stealing, if a little well-worn performance as the obnoxious best mate. Luckily, the gags come thick and fast enough for you to ignore the obvious holes in the plot, but I Give it a Year is, ultimately, a pretty unfulfilling experience.

I Give it a Year shows that you can't have your wedding cake and eat it by  failing to avoid the clichés it is trying so hard to lampoon.  Mazer's crude but often-funny screenplay is overshadowed by over-familiarity and irksome characters you wouldn't give 10 minutes, let alone a year.

★★☆☆☆