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Dan Mazer upends rom-com cliches in 'I Give It a Year'

Don Mazer, writer-director of the marriage comedy "I Give It a Year," gives a detailed explanation of what's fundamentally wrong with rom-coms.

Don Mazer wrote and directed the anti-rom-com "I Give It a Year," about a couple who shouldn't have gotten married. Credit: Magnolia Pictures Dan Mazer wrote and directed the anti-rom-com "I Give It a Year," about a couple who shouldn't have gotten married.
Credit: Magnolia Pictures

British writer-director Dan Mazer has taken his exasperation over trite and cliched romantic comedies and channeled it into "I Give it a Year," putting the usual meat of a rom-com of a couple (Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall) meeting and falling in love into a wordless 90-second montage at the start of the film. Next thing you know, they're getting married — and it's all downhill from there.

Why can't Americans get romantic comedies right the way Brits do?
I think British people by definition are relatively cynical and pessimistic and bitter in a way that Americans are much more embracing of everything and enthusiastic and gung ho. And I think because the subject of romance almost by definition would always veer toward the saccharine, if you add the American sensibility to that then the confection often becomes a bit too sweet. Whereas I think [with the British sensibility] it's like a salted caramel ice cream. It's that mix of sweet and bitterness that maybe Brits do quite well.

What was the impetus for this story?
Two, basically: First, the idea of being dissatisfied with romantic comedies and this being sort of a reaction to those. Too often we've seen the entirely fabricated tale of the ditzy L.A. PR girl who falls for the Australian sheep farmer and they're fundamentally ill-suited, but through a bizarre set of circumstances they have to join up to find a dog that swallows an engagement ring in Paris, and through doing that learn to love each other and it ends in a sort of fairy tale wedding. And the cynic in me always thinks, "Well, hold on? Why have we stopped here?" Actually what's much more interesting is what happens next, when they have to go and sit there and live their lives, because it's going to be terrible. It's going to end in rancor and acrimony and him wanting a piece of the L.A. PR agency — and maybe in the sequel, who knows, running it. Already I've got a two-film structure to this.

And the second impetus?
That sort of tallied up with something that happened in real life, which is that I went to a wedding of a good friend of mine who was marrying somebody that the entire congregation knew was completely ill-suited to them. Everybody was basically whispering in each other's ear, "I give it a year" as they stood up and took their vows. I thought, that's a funny jumping-off point for a film. You'll be pleased to hear that they absolutely did not last. Three months and it was done.

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