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British import I Give It a Year is part successful bawdy comedy and part tiresome romantic melodrama. Rose Byrne makes anything better, but so much of Director Dan Mazer's film rests on its unimpressive romantic-comedy foundation that the final result crumbles into a bore. Byrne plays advertising exec Nat, who marries struggling writer Josh (Rafe Spall) after only seven months together. The pair quickly grows apart and begins looking for greener pastures, Josh in longtime flame Chloe (Anna Faris) and Nat with a brash client (Simon Baker). It is clear from the get-go that Nat and Josh are in way over their heads but their new love interests are equally ill-suited to join the crazy train. Aside from the typically British humor that places the unhappily wedded couple in more than a few award situations, I Give It a Year is downright grating. Baker's Guy is unrelentingly boorish and totally undeserving of Nat, and the normally charismatic actor is barely tolerable here. Byrne's Nat is painted as flighty and selfish, and only Faris makes it out unscathed as the voice of reason throughout the film.
Despite having little in common and even less time to discover one another's flaws, Nat and Josh plow down the aisle in a high-dollar wedding. I Give It a Year then moves forward to a marital counseling session, where the worst therapist ever (Olivia Colman) chastises Nat and Josh for their obviously irreparable relationship. The film at first promises to be an irreverent sendup of a failing marriage but soon moves into generic rom-com waters. You see, there's nothing that bad about the couple's relationship except that neither really cares to spend time with the other. Josh hates Nat's singing because she never knows the correct words, and Nat makes little effort to hide her disdain for Josh's self-styled career. Complicating matters is Chloe, who reveals that she and Josh never officially broke up when she went to Africa four years prior. Freshly peeved from this revelation, Nat allows the presumptuous Guy to flirt his way through their meetings. It is instantly clear that both Nat and Josh are embarrassed to be seen together, which spells certain doom for their marriage.
British comedies are known to throw in a bit of rude humor here and there, and frequently play it far less safe than American PG-13 borefests. There's some naughty banter sprinkled throughout, the highlights of which include Stephen Merchant's cringe-worthy Best Man's speech and a truly awkward digital photo frame reveal to Nat's parents. Why the filmmakers then force the wandering-eye romance upon viewers is anyone's guess. Guy spends the film bullying Josh, and not in a funny way. I felt sorry for the Josh guy and hated the Guy guy. If Guy was supposed to be an award-winning dick then the film nails his character. Nat is far from a terrible person but gets sucked into the villain role by proxy. I wanted to throw my shoe at Byrne for much of the film, and the actress is way too talented to be playing such a one-dimensional character. Nat's uptight. That's her whole deal. Josh is kind of a schlub but awfully nice. They shouldn't be married. Split up and move on already.
Faris again demeans herself for the sake of comedy and again proves the most desirable woman in the film. A late-game romantic switcheroo has Chloe and Guy together in hateful desperation, but the audience knows this disaster isn't meant to be. The ending is semi-unconventional, so I'll give the film a point or two for that. This is one to watch while doing laundry or making dinner. That way you can block out all the poorly constructed love games but have a laugh or two during the comedic scenes. A movie where Byrne and Spall actually like each other might be interesting. Or, better yet, a buddy comedy with Byrne and Faris. Someone should work on that.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer from Magnolia looks quite good, with vibrant colors and sharp, clear detail. Skin tones are accurate and black levels strong. Famed cinematographer Ben Davis' digitally captured work is impressive, and the Blu-ray does a nice job highlighting the intricate textures and props in each scene. Daytime, outdoor scenes and nighttime, nightclub shots are equally impressive, and dreary London looks anything but.
The expectedly front-loaded 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack maintains excellent balance and range, and the few action effects make use of the surrounds. Dialogue is consistently clear and well layered, and ambient noise and music are immersive. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
The extras kick off with a funny Blooper Reel (7:17/HD) and Outtakes: The Doves (3:07/HD), in which Byrne dives for cover from some swooping birds. There's a lengthy reel of Deleted and Extended Scenes (15:22/HD), as well as two brief Making Of I Give It a Year featurettes: "Relationships and Marriages" (3:03/HD) and "The Characters" (3:29/HD). There are also a number of Cast and Crew Interviews (27:55/HD) and a large chunk of International Interviews (30:40/HD).
The funny opening minutes are promising, but I Give It a Year soon veers heavily into well-worn romantic comedy territory. Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Rafe Spall and Simon Baker comprise an attractive cast, but only Faris is really likeable as the free-spirited voice of reason in a movie with plenty of self-absorbed characters. Byrne and Spall are a couple splitting up after barely a year of marriage, and I suspect most of the audience will want them to hurry up and move on. There are a few clever gags, however, so Rent It and quickly forget it.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.