Film: I Give It a Year

Few films manage to be simultaneously heartless and laugh-out-loud funny. I Give It a Year is one of them. It’s got great jokes but incomprehensible characters and an odd mix of dry cynicism and fairytale endings smaulch. A story that initially feels like an attempt to subvert the rom-com genre ends up more formulaic than a McDonald’s milkshake.

Rose Bryne’s Nat and Rafe Spall’s Josh have recently got married, but are completely unsuited to one another. Rather than spend the entire film trying to get together, they spend it trying to split up. They should clearly be with someone else – for instance, Simon Baker’s Guy, a high-flying American executive, or Anna Faris’s Chloe, the ubiquitous crazy chick with a heart.

Nat seems to work in the only office in the world run entirely by women. It’s a bold and progressive environment – the kind of place where she must flirt with hunky prospective client Josh in order to get a new contract. But look, everyone’s wearing suits and carrying clipboards, so it’s all OK.

Meanwhile, Chloe goes on a shopping spree in an underwear shop with her former flame Josh, who likes embarrassing everyone by getting drunk and dancing like Beyoncé. They try on a bra together. Or at least Chloe does. Josh, unfortunately, just watches.

If I’m making it sound dreadful, that’s because at times it is. But when it’s not being dreadful, it’s very funny. An unstoppable digital photo frame leads to one of many moments of the painful/ hilarious comedy, as popularised by The Office. Stephen Merchant also has a cameo, as does Peep Show’s marvellous Olivia Coleman, who plays a marriage guidance councillor wielding an increasingly disturbing doll.

Writer/ director Dan Mazer (best known for his work with Sacha Baron Cohen) has a talent for observational humour but is being slowly suffocated in a vat of Working Title syrup. Peppered throughout the script are references to the company’s back catalogue and other British films just in case you’re thinking of ever straying to, say, Disney. A scene of a rain soaked Josh telling Nat he wants a divorce in a packed restaurant mimics Hugh Grant asking Andie MacDowell to “not get married” in Four Weddings and a Funeral. You can almost hear producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner laughing in the background at how gloriously post-modern they’re being. Four Weddings might not be as obviously funny, edgy or self-referential as this, but at least it feels genuine – like someone actually cares about it.

The only Northern characters in I Give It a Year are grateful factory workers in hairnets, babbling about how wonderful Josh, a man who appears chiseled from gold coins, is to work for. As is the norm in Working Title films, everyone is casually rich. They slouch about in houses no one who works in generic office jobs would ever be able to afford – certainly not in these credit crunching times. I know the building Nat and Josh are supposed to live in well. Sometimes The Other One and I walk around Chelsea and look through its windows as a cheap day out.

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