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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

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.

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I Give It a Year (2013)
US/Can release: Aug 9 2013
UK/Ire release: Feb 8 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated UEA: will make you unhappy ever after
MPAA: rated R for sexual content, language and some graphic nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong language, sex and sex references)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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

  • Dani

    people do indeed marry near-strangers. my parents got married after three dates and a handful of phone conversations, so they would be allowed to share a bedroom at my great-grandparents’ house. they lasted 20 years, but i wouldn’t categorize it as a successful marriage (although it worked out well for ensuring my existence :) )

  • RogerBW

    In this era, when people can have relationships, live together, and/or raise children without getting married and they won’t be publicly shunned for it, it seems to me that the main reason for getting married quickly is… unrealistic expectations brought on by romantic fiction and elderly relatives. (There are others, of course: wanting to trap the bedazzled partner into something that’ll be difficult to get out of when the glamour wears off, for example.)

  • What if it hadn’t worked, though? It was a lot harder (sometimes near impossible) to get divorced in the past, and the stigma attached to it if you did manage to divorce was enormous.

    Anyway, the real question is, Why would anyone marry someone they don’t know well *today*?

  • There is no criticism whatsoever in this film of the unrealistic fantasies about marriage that are pushed on us. There *is* one quick joke about how Rose Byrne’s parents in spent £45K on the wedding… which is ridiculous, especially when her character appears to be a highly paid advertising and marketing professional. Why should they have paid for her wedding? *grrrr*

  • RogerBW

    I suspect the answer would be “because her parents wanted the big flashy wedding and she didn’t”. That’s certainly a very common thing among people my sort of age and younger whom I’ve known when they were getting married.

  • LaSargenta

    I recall — not so long ago — getting a sort-of proposal after knowing someone only 2 months. It was repeated about a month later. A ‘real’ proposal (thankfully w/o a ring present) at 4 months…

    I deflected them. They engendered shear terror in me. Mind you…relationship has so far endured. I just refuse to get married.

  • Dani

    Oh, they married in 1992 and divorced just last year. I think people marry near-strangers today because they think that person is the solution to… their life. All the repetition and mundanity. But love doesn’t get rid of that.
    I don’t know. Have you had experience with people who married quickly?

  • nsf

    Root canals are just about painless these days. Just saying… :P

  • Gee

    My husband proposed to me three months after meeting. I agreed (with reservations), but of course we didn’t get married until two years later. It may be very well for celebrities to have quickie marriages, but in real life people aren’t that disposable. I guess the creators of this film didn’t really get that.

  • Oh goodness, you’re young if your parents only married in 1992 (and you came along after). Though it surprises me, too, that in 1992 they felt like they couldn’t insist on sharing a bed in someone else’s house.

    I can’t think of anyone I know who married quickly. I do know people who married for reasons less than romantic, like: Well, it was just time to get married…

    But with regards to this film: there’s no real justification for the marriage in this movie, beyond “they were in love, or so they thought.”

  • teenygozer

    Due to going to a terrible dentist in the 90s, I had to have so many root canals in 2008/2009 that by the end of the run, I was falling asleep during my last couple of root canals. The dental assistant had to keep poking me in the arm to wake me up so I’d open my mouth wider. Root canals are easy-peasy these days. Getting rabies shots has likewise gotten exponentially easier, not painful at all (or so my husband says). Hooray for medical progress!

  • Rod Ribeiro

    “…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.”

    If you count because I want a hell of a party with lots of gifts as Just Because, it happens more often than you’d think. Also, for religious types, marrying a “virgin” and getting a divorce later is still less taboo than moving in with your boyfriend. If you get divorced you can play the Not MY Fault Everything Went Wrong card.

    I’ve seen people throw away marriages in a heartbeat, but that only happens when money is not an issue, so it’s unusual. Most people will risk cheating before that.

  • Dokeo

    Not always. Here’s my experience of root canal: Get shots of novocain,
    and think everything will be fine. Then they start drilling…and drilling, and
    drilling…for a very long time. After which they dig around the root of your tooth for a long time. No pain, but you can feel the pressure up in the middle of your face. Then they do something where you smell a hot, smoky smell. No idea if it’s a material, an implement, or your own flesh that’s burning.

    Eventually the novocain begins to wear off, but they give you another shot after you start flinching. Then they fill the “canal” (i.e. the long hole they just drilled through your head) full of something. Lots more uncomfortable pressure, and whatever combination of concrete and/or plastic they pack into your face squeaks worryingly as they do it. Eventually, they finish.

    Other comments suggest it’s possible to relax during all this. For me, it was 3 hours of clenching (involuntarily) every muscle in my body. So add to the above two days of full-body soreness.

    Not 100% sure, but the description of this movie does indeed make it sound almost as bad!

  • And so you confirm my suspicion that this is a movie to make you hate people.

  • Great takedown! You nailed most of what I detested about this film.
    I especially hate how it makes all of the characters and situations so superficial; how it asserts that Byrne and Baker are the *sophisticated* people because they work in business rather than do charity work (!) or write novels (!!) like Faris and Spall, and how that ultimately means that they’re more suited to each other. I also didn’t like how Spall (a more attractive man than Baker, in my eyes) was made to behave clownish to seem more uncouth, and Faris was de-glammed and humiliated (especially in that threesome scene) despite clearly being attractive.
    It just seemed too keen to reinforce its realist-romantic (???) angle through these shallow means instead of getting to the crux of real marital issues. I mean: can you imagine how they even got together in the first place? It’s anybody’s guess, right?

  • Emma

    I did actually rather enjoy I Give It A Year – mainly for the comedic moments rather than the romantic moments and some of the cringey moments were rather…. awkward.

    It’s actually one of the best films for a while, it had me laughing non stop right the way through and came out feeling refreshed. Stephen Merchant was amazing.

  • amanohyo

    I feel similarly about the concept of marriage, but in a Chinese style wedding the guests give the couple money, so we went ahead and got married (courthouse ceremony + modest reception dinner) solely for financial gain.

    Also, Shear Terror IV: The Dewoolening is one of my favorite barnyard torture porn flicks.

    Is this movie worst than Rachel Getting Married? That was like being trapped in a labyrinth full of histrionic yuppies for two hours desperately searching in vain for an escape route (or at least a pair of earplugs and a strong drink). Come to think of it, are there any wedding-themed movies that aren’t awful?… I suppose My Big Fat Greek Wedding is endurable, and people have claimed to enjoy Father of the Bride and Four Weddings… Wait, Black Cat, White Cat is awesome. I guess there are some.

  • amanohyo


  • Paulliver

    I know your question “Why would anyone marry someone they don’t know well?” was six months ago, but as an ex-husband I thought I’d weigh in. I’ve developed this theory that everyone hides parts of themselves, even from themselves. Even assuming two people are trying to be honest, which is not always the case, there are things you just won’t learn about a person until you marry them, because they don’t even realize it about themselves until someone is living 24/7 with them and points it out. Unfortunately, usually these are not good things, which is why people are in denial about them.

  • sandra

    Root canals are excruciatingly painful. The only good thing about them is that, while you remember that, you can’t remember exactly what the pain felt like. Which makes this movie worse than a root canal, apparently.

  • BrianJKelly

    Yeah…. some studies suggest that a lot of people marry whomever they happen to be with when “it’s time to get married.” I’ve mostly seen quickly marriages among friends who were recently divorced… it’s like they don’t know how NOT to be married, so they remarry the first rebound person with whom they hook up.

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