The good thing about going to see a film you know nothing about (seriously, I barely knew the title) is that you can go into it free from any preconceived opinions or reviews. The bad thing is that you might unwittingly stumble into a film featuring Minnie fucking Driver. My hatred of Minnie Drive is well documented. You’ll be surprised to hear that she was not the worst thing about this movie.
I Give It a Year is a Working Title picture, by Borat writer Dan Mazer, clearly inspired by the Richard Curtis school of British Romantic Comedy. There’s this attractive couple who live in London and do London things like take cabs and eat cereal and play charades at Christmas. Then there’s an American female love interest. Only, instead of Notting Hill’s Julia Roberts, it’s Anna Faris. You know, that girl whose babies Chandler & Monica adopted at the end of Friends. Obscure. And yes, of course, Julia Roberts was in Friends once upon a time. But she’s also Julia Roberts.
One half of the oh so terribly London couple is Nat, played by Rose Byrne, who was just brilliant in Bridesmaids, but is a little blah here. She’s never particularly likeable or sympathetic, even though she clearly married a bit of a dolt. Nat’s ill-fated husband Josh is played by Rafe Spall, who is mainly famous for having a dad, and because he used to be fat. Spall’s entire performance is an admirable impression of Martin Freeman starring in, well, anything. If you close your eyes (not to fall asleep, just for some extended blinking) it could almost be him. And completing the foursome of star-crossed lovers is the American male love interest, played by floppy haired, cheesy grinned Australian Simon Baker.
The film charts the slow unravelling of Nat & Josh’s marriage, from the initial stylish wedding complete with a mass paper sky lantern release (unrealistic – they’re exactly the type to know about the environmental impact of such a display), to the one year anniversary surprise ‘celebrations’. Then there’s a scene at St Pancras which I guess is supposed to come off as cute and bumblingly British, but is just a bit weird. Luckily, all this is interspersed with simple scenes shot across a desk from Olivia Colman, showcasing the dark side of couples therapy. Colman is the kind of wonderful addition to this set up who can just make things work. The kind the director can tell to ‘have a phone argument with your husband about picking up the kids, make it last five minutes, make it the funniest thing in the film’, and she does.
Speaking of supporting cast, was Stephen Merchant owed a favour or something? His leery, innuendo cracking best mate to Josh is more than a little out of place here. Merchant plays it as a mixture of David Brent and everything else he & Gervais did together. Which is all well and good, and just part of the British ensemble set piece, like Rhys Ifans in Notting Hill or Kris Marshall in Love Actually, only a little more random. Like the whole film, really. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the worst 97 minutes of my life. I laughed out loud a few times, and there are plenty of good looking people to gawp at, whatever your predilection. Plus it’s always nice to see our fair capital city as romantic comedy intended: rain free, with ample parking and covered in fairy lights.
And so to Minnie Driver. Aside from my initial shock, anger and upset at realising she was in the film, I was actually grateful to her for uttering the line ‘I give it a year’ in the first five minutes, and reminding me of the name of the film. Moreover, she turned out to be pretty bloody excellent, as the scathing older sister, who is never without an eye roll, a witty disparaging put down, or a glass of wine. Plus she’s sleeping, albeit begrudgingly, with Jason Flemyng. (That’s Failed Critics Editor James’s good friend Jason Flemyng.) Minnie fucking Driver is the best thing about this film. Forsaking everything I previous thought true, when I grow up I want to be Minnie Driver’s character in I Give It a Year.
Oh, and Foxton’s may already be London’s leading estate agent. Nonetheless, they owe Rose Byrne an enormous debt of gratitude.