When I watch a comedy film I often expect funny jokes or scenarios, some pop culture references, minor plot development, relate-able characters, and a somewhat relevant ending (If I’m honest, there’s always room for movement in that last part, but within reason – the characters can’t, say, get hit by a bus in the end. I’m looking at you Scary Movie 1, 2, 3, 4, Epic Movie, and Superhero Movie). That being said, my expectations of each of these are not too high, and once in a while a comedy can surprise me with an above average plot or acting. This applies for I Give it a Year.
Josh starts off his toast to he and Nat on their picture-perfect wedding day. Well, perfect except for the best man’s speech. And the dance…
Released on the 28th of February (in Australia), I Give it a Year is a comedy that is worth quoting. When I saw that it was (screenplay) written and directed by Dan Mazer, the same man who wrote Bruno and produced Borat, I knew that I was in for some edgy and probably crude humor. What I didn’t expect was for the plot to carry that vision above just expected cheap laughs, and the all-star cast further supported this movement. The film stars Rose Byrne, Rafe Spall, Simon Baker, Anna Faris, Minnie Driver, Jason Flemming, and (arguably) Stephen Merchant.
The premise of the film is that the first year of a marriage is the hardest – if you can get through it, you can get through anything. The main characters used to highlight this idea are Nat (Byrne) and Josh (Spall), who, at the opening of the film, are getting married after dating for 7 months, and Nat’s sister Naomi (Driver) announces to her husband, Hugh (Flemming), “I give it a year”, jump-starting the film into action from the beginning. After the wedding the story jumps forward 9 months, where Nat and Josh are discussing their problems with a marriage counselor. After showing the audience that something does go wrong, the rest of the film consists of flashbacks to key moments during their first 9 months of marriage, until it resumes in ‘normal time’ after the counseling to the climax during the last 3 months of their first year. Among other problems, Nat finds herself falling for a work client, Guy (Baker), and Josh discovers he still has feelings for his ex-girlfriend, Chloe (Faris).
I’m going to try to avoid talking about the twist at the end, so instead I’m going to focus on how the story and different moments in the plot all reinforce the recurring theme that this couple will not last their first year of marriage.
The four stars of the show after their somewhat awkward double date. Note the differences in interaction between the couples? Like I said, somewhat awkward
The film often cleverly inserts conflicting lines of dialogue to create a sense of irony surrounding Nat and Josh’s marriage. Depending on the situation, this irony contrasts things like Nat and Josh’s personalities, or the celebration of marriage with the concept of its demise (shown in the wedding scene, when Naomi says “I give it a year” just after the newlyweds kiss). A few examples of such irony are in the opening 5 minutes of the film, such as when one character whispers to another at the reception how much Nat hates being in the spotlight, and only moments later Josh stands up to give his speech, beginning by saying how much Nat loves being in the spotlight. Another is during the first dance, when Nat confides in Josh her paranoia of him performing a novelty dance, only moments before he actually performs one (a hilariously awkward rap with his best friend Danny (Merchant). Scenes like these show the differences between Nat and Josh, and cast a lingering doubt in the viewer’s mind that perhaps this marriage won’t last.
Another scene that reinforces this theme is when Nat and Josh are playing a game of pool with Guy and Chloe, and Guy makes a remark about them getting along “like a house on fire”. Josh points out that a house on fire doesn’t make sense because if a house is on fire it isn’t a good thing, and Chloe agrees with him. Nat, frustrated with Josh, explains that it’s a metaphor not taken at face value, with Guy agreeing. This symbolism from being on the same team in pool to being on opposing teams when Josh makes his jokes illustrates where they are in their relationship, versus where they’d rather be - they are still married, but Nat and Josh find themselves drawn towards Guy and Chloe (respectively).
Many hilarious jokes, one liners, and awkward situations fill the film from start to finish, and the actors deliver this humor superbly, especially Stephen Merchant; you’ll love to hate his character. The other actors portray a variety of emotions through out, and deliver a believable performance from start to finish. Because of the crude humor and use of coarse language I would definitely not recommend this film for kids under 15 or 16.
And if you didn’t get enough of Stephen Merchant during the film, there’s more during the credits. So much more…
Unfortunately, there are a few negative points for the film: Anna Faris and Simon Baker’s characters didn’t develop as much as Rose and Rafe’s, even though they were all presented with most of the same situations. Although their performances were pretty good, the character’s themselves were somewhat bland – I like them both as actors, but it seems they were almost underplaying their roles.
I Give it a Year is an all around funny film with some solid performances, a fitting soundtrack, and an above average plot that combine to craft an enjoyable movie. While I wouldn’t go and see it again straight away, the characters and pacing definitely kept me riveted until the end. Although it won’t become a part of anyone’s ‘safety vault of movies to keep in case of emergencies’, the positives definitely outweighed the flaws, and I recommend seeing this film if you’re a fan of comedy films. Or British comedy. Or even Stephen Merchant.
- Well-delivered premise and story
- Comedy doesn’t feel forced or unnecessary
- Good performances by whole cast
- Stephen Merchant
- Stephen Merchant (character felt a little unnecessary)
- Some characters felt a little underdeveloped
- Difficult to sympathize with the characters towards the end of the movie
Suitability: Only for 15/16 and up, due to coarse language and some brief nudity
Replay Value: Medium
Disclaimer: Pictures taken from live.orange.com, breakingnews.ie, guardian.co.uk, and edencinemas.com.mt