I Give It a Year (review)

I Give It a Year red light Simon Baker Anna Faris Rose Byrne Rafe Spall

I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): the trailer looked dreadful

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

So apparently grownups need to be reminded by The Movies: Don’t marry someone you don’t know.

I need to leave this planet.

I Give It a Year is a movie to make you hate romance, and romantic comedies, and people. How does anyone look at this root canal of a flick and not conclude that humanity is awful and deserves to die in a fire? Actually I’ve never had a root canal. Maybe root canals aren’t so bad, in which case I have besmirched a necessary dental procedure by comparing it to the misadventures of the worst people you have ever met.

That would be the people in this movie.

Supposedly Year is an antidote to unrealistic Hollywood movies about cinematic romances that end at the altar, before that first blush of new love has worn off and everyone starts arguing about taking the garbage out and the appropriate position of the toilet seat. I agree that it would be nice to see movies that deal with the actual realities and compromises and so on of such intimate relationships — but then again, just as I’ve never had a root canal, I’ve never been married, so what do I know about these things?

Maybe I Give It a Year is completely awesome in its realities, if actual real-life non-movie people do get married Just Because and have no trouble with throwing away a marriage like a used Kleenex. Like Nat (Rose Byrne: X-Men: First Class, Bridesmaids ) and Josh (Rafe Spall: Life of Pi, Prometheus) do here. We’re supposed to find it “funny,” apparently, that as they settle into married life they start to learn just how little they know each other… perhaps because they got married only nine months after meeting. I weep to think of the mass audience this film assumes it will find in all the people who are unhappily married to spouses they don’t know. (Do people really marry people they don’t know? Marry? *shudder*) Sure, I guess there are always bumps in the road to marital bliss, but do those bumps usually take the form of completely other attractive people? Not in the sense that you’ll always notice other pretty people but as a serious attraction, like five minutes after you’re married? This is particularly awful in the case of Nat, who takes off her wedding ring in order to flirt with Guy (Simon Baker: Margin Call, The Killer Inside Me) when she thinks this will help her ad agency get his business — he is, naturally, a multimillionaire oil executive — and then freaks when he flirts back, like how could that happen? I guess this is another aspect of that “realism”: women be cockteases, doncha know, who don’t even consider the emotions of the men they tease. It’s just women’s natural state of being.

It’s not much better on Josh’s side, when his ex, Chloe (Anna Faris), starts modeling lingerie in his presence. Seriously? But much much worse is the underlying assumption of all the various interactions between these four people as they navigate their attractions: that obviously marriage isn’t really a big-deal sort of commitment, that it is something people enter into easily and can just as easily discharge.

I hate these people. And I hate the people behind this story for assuming they were being wise and witty. That people would be screenwriter and director Dan Mazer, who had a hand in Borat and Bruno, but only a tiny hand, it would seem.

But it’s worser still. Josh’s best friend is the awful, vulgar Danny (Stephen Merchant: Movie 43, Gnomeo & Juliet), who is apparently “edgy” and “shocking,” in that way that movies think behaving like a horny 12-year-old boy is somehow transgressive, because he engages in unpleasant sexual innuendo and insults Nat on her wedding day — all in jest, all in jest — and generally treats women like blow-up sex toys. Nat’s best friend is the hideous Naomi (Minnie Driver: Motherhood, The Phantom of the Opera), whose apparent only pleasure in life comes from degrading her husband (Jason Flemyng: Great Expectations, X-Men: First Class) in front of others. (I afear that Naomi is meant to be a “realistic” depiction of marriage… as something more akin to a kidnapping than a romance.) Josh and Nat go to the worst marriage counselor ever (Olivia Colman: Hyde Park on Hudson, Twenty Twelve) for help when their sham of a marriage really starts to fall apart, who wouldn’t be here at all as a character if Year was genuinely interested in realism. She is abusive in a way that’s supposed to be hilarious — such as by impugning Josh’s heterosexuality — but that would prompt characters close to representing an actual married couple seeking actual help to walk out immediately.

But Nat and Josh take her abuse, deflating all pretense toward realism, because Year doesn’t really want to explore the realities of marriage. It just wants to be mean and juvenile because it thinks mean and juvenile is funny. Just like all the other damn movie comedies these days that it believes it’s distingushing itself from. It makes for a movie that is fiercely unfunny and utterly unromantic, and offers respite from the awfulness it shares with all those other rom-coms only when it finally ends, and we never have to see these dreadful people again.

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
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