Don’t root for the married couple in ‘I Give It a Year’

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Simon Baker, Anna Faris, Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall star in “I Give It a Year.”
Credit: Magnolia Pictures

‘I Give It a Year’
Director: Dan Mazer
Stars: Rose Byrne, Rafe Spall
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

As its catchphrase title suggests, “I Give It a Year” delves into a dark and disturbing subject: the first year of marriage, when the thrill of romance dissipates and the realization that one has agreed to stay with someone until death becomes cripplingly real. If this sounds like a grim topic for a British comedy nakedly in thrall to the cinema of Richard Curtis (“Love Actually,” etc.), then you’re in luck: That is the subject, and it isn’t.

Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall) meet at a party and immediately start necking. They whirlwind courtship, borne of instant sexual chemistry, takes them right into a whirlwind marriage — a development that almost immediately smacks of a bad idea. Nat is an ambitious corporate type; Josh is a struggling writer fond of bad jokes and drunk dancing. What’s more, they each have obvious soulmates: Nat with a moneyed, smarmy client (Simon Baker, resuscitating his “The Devil Wears Prada” shtick), Josh with a shy friend (Anna Faris).

Technically speaking, it’s not fair to reprimand a film for not exploring a certain, prickly subject, even if it appeared to offer just that. On the other, it’s disappointing to watch a film that looks like it will balance comedy with unpleasant truths turn instead to stock rom-com cliches. “I Give It a Year” winds up being another genre entry in which obvious should-be-lovers — two sets of them, this time — spend a film’s length stalling, protractedly putting off the inevitable for the climax.

Still, funny’s funny, and now that even Richard Curtis has sworn off Richard Curtis rom-coms, it’s good to know that someone (writer-director Dan Mazer) can do a not bad imitation (and at their “Four Weddings and a Funeral”-level prime, no less). Mazer previously collaborated with Sacha Baron Cohen, yet he has a gift for offhanded human insights delivered as comedy, charming self-deprecation and the expected blocks of embarrassment. (A key dramatic scene is nicely thrown off by a pair of doves flying recklessly and scarily around a board room with a ceiling fan.) The requisite Curtis mad-dash-to-nervously-declare-love is even given an amusing twist — although even that gag, like the rest of the film, is ultimately a touch too easy.


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