You know, the kind that usually stars the likes of Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston or Ashton Kutcher. A guy meets a girl and they really don’t get on. In fact, they pretty much hate each other. During the course of the film they irritate each other more and more, until something magical happens and they begin to think that they might even like each other. When all is said and done they’ve fallen in love, and despite how little they initially seemed to have in common, by the end of the movie they’re together and we’re left to assume that they’ll live happily ever after.
A movie like that could very feasibly serve as a prequel to I Give It A Year. We meet Rose Byrne’s Nat and Rafe Spall’s Josh on their wedding day, but it’s clear within a few months that their marriage is far from perfect. There’s obviously some connection there, so there’s every chance that they’ll work through their differences and learn to love each other all over again…but it’s equally likely that their marriage won’t last the year. Things are complicated further by a pair of Americans; Simon Baker and Anna Faris. Baker’s Guy starts working with Nat, and she feels an instant guilty attraction to him, while Faris’ Chloe is an old flame of Josh’s and there seems to be some unfinished business between them too.
So that’s the set-up, and it’s led some to describe the film as the anti rom-com. And in a way it’s exactly that, but in another it’s almost the ultimate rom-com. Instead of giving you just one, writer-director Dan Mazer (Borat, Bruno) presents you with three couples you could reasonably root for. The flip side to that – and here’s where the anti rom-com comes in – is that you’re watching at least one, if not two couples whose relationship is inevitably doomed. It’s a refreshing change to the standard genre conventions which conceptually it works really well, and sets up a brilliantly funny final act when the anti/ultimate rom-com finally shows its hand.
It’s not all plain-sailing, though, in fact it’s an incredibly bumpy ride. The whole thing is just a little too piecemeal. Mazer has a whole host of funny people in supporting roles coming in to do a scene here and there (from Stephen Merchant and Minnie Driver, to Olivia Colman and Tim Key), and as a result many scenes feel set up like sketches or servicable sitcom scenes, whilst others seem to exist merely to progress the plot.
Some are admittedly incredibly funny – and that’s why the film has managed to assemble some truly cracking trailers – but some sail way wide of the mark and make the final piece seem incredibly uneven. Byrne (replete with an impeccable cut-glass British accent) and Spall (who emerges as a viable romantic and comedic lead) are both excellent though, and manage to just about sell it even when things aren’t quite working structurally.
Ultimately that’s all that really matters. It’s funny, if not groundbreaking, and should hopefully draw big audiences during this Valentine’s week.