Tag Archives: Rose Byrne

Bad Neighbours 2

bad-neighbours

“Stop it. You’re only making them sexier.”

2014’s Bad Neighbours (or Neighbours in countries where audiences are trusted to not confuse it with the shitty Australian daytime soap opera) was a surprisingly good film. Not being much of a fan of stars Seth Rogen or Zack Efron, it came out of left field as one of the better comedies of the year, getting some real laughs out of me. It went on to make an absolute fortune and gave us weeks of stupid Twitter headlines of how it “Revitalised the R-Rated comedy genre”. There was never doubt that there was going to be a sequel, but the question was always going to be if it’s stars could repeat its success.

After successfully seeing off Teddy (Efron) and his imbecilic fraternity and moving on with their lives, Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and Rose Byrne) discover they are pregnant with their second child and decide it’s time to move to a bigger house. They sell their home and head into escrow – essentially a 30 day cool-down period where a buyer can pull out – but just as they do that, a handful of girls, led by Chloe Moretz’s Shelby, hoping to buck a trend of party-free sororities move in next door and cause all manner of mayhem.

Desperate to get the girls out and not have their potential buyer put off by the large amounts of underage clam next door, the parents call upon the services of the man that nearly beat them the last time, fraternity God Teddy. As guerrilla warfare ensues and both sides throw big punches, only one can come out on top.

Let’s make this short and sweet. This film is fucking ghastly. It’s not a scratch on the first one and absolutely falls into that Hangover thing where just because one is great, it’s assumed that another film with all the same jokes will be ok. It won’t. It isn’t. Fuck you for thinking it is.

The film tries to convince you that it’s about women empowering themselves and not wanting to be pigeon holed by society – and more important to them, the fraternities that seem to have the “right” to party where they don’t.

This is all great and you might even be on their side, until one of the Radner’s fire a shot across the bow and their retaliation is to all hang out on their porch wearing bikinis that barely cover their nipples and writhe across the bonnet of Mac’s car when Kelly comes at them with a garden hose – something the girls react far worse to a little later on when it’s a pissed frat kid with a super soaker, the hypocritical twats.

Efron gets his abs, and his balls, out – proving to us all after his dreadful Dirty Grandpa stint that he’s simply not meant for this shit. While Rogen tries to call back to the weed and dick jokes that got him here but trips over the used condom on the floor filled with the remnant of what used to be actual comedy and landing flat on his face.  But it’s ok, because by the time we get to the end, and we discover it’s all really about how being in one of these snobby, elitist circle jerks leads to having lifelong friends. And guys, that the most important thing in the whole wide world.

Just, piss off.

Bad Neighbours 2 is the worst of the Hollywood sequel machine. Removing all of what made the original great and trying to sell it to you on the “remember that film you liked so much, here it is again” school of thinking. It’s not the first film this year whose best jokes aren’t only in the trailer, but completely missing from the film altogether – did I dream LL Cool J waving a twelve inch black rubber dick around in a trailer for this? I mean, it’s not entirely implausible, I’ve had weirder dreams.

It’s a film that bases almost all of its *cough* laughs around jokes carbon copied from the original; and a wholly unfunny running gag where a toddler plays with her mums dildo, clinging onto it like a security blanket and everyone seems to think this is completely normal and not at all bizarre behaviour. Oh, and the absolutely hilarious bit where Rose Byrne blurts out “Black cock” in front of a black dude. Comedy. Fucking. Genius.

I mean, it’s possible I’m wrong.  Very possible. After all, the screening I was in was filled with people howling with laughter. But they were also all laughing at that horrific fucking Keith Lemon Carphone Warehouse ad that was on just before the film started, so… Make of that what you will.

A complete waste of an hour and a half of my life, you could go and watch this film if you were really desperate for someone to do. But personally I would recommend the far less painful torture of repeatedly trying to staple your balls to a rugby ball.

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Spy

Spy is the best comedy I have seen since 22 Jump Street.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

spy 1I assume that you have all seen the trailers, posters and such for Spy by this point and have this movie figured out.  There will be a lot of swearwords, because swearwords are funny, Melissa McCarthy is fat and not twenty-something so therefore will fall over a lot and be the butt of ten-hundred jokes about how undesirable she therefore is, it’s two hours long and as such will be padded to hell and back, and it’s an action-comedy so the action will be cheap-looking, flatly directed and mostly just an afterthought to endless pointless sequences of characters riffing on one gag until it’s long-past being entertaining.

Well, you’re wrong.  You’re dead wrong, primarily because you’ve been sold the wrong film.  Writer-director Paul Feig, and his immensely talented mostly female cast, has actually crafted a brilliant, subversive, and hilarious movie that wastes not a second of its two hour runtime, is really intelligent in its silly comedy, and, thanks to its self-belief message and a whole bunch of conscious and unconscious design choices, is quietly feminist.  What appears to be cheap and mean-spirited out of context builds up to make a heartfelt point in context, and what sounds sophomoric and juvenile out of context ends up quietly clever and character-driven in context.

To wit: Spy follows the exploits of Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy), a lowly analyst at the CIA who, despite making an incredibly effective team with ace field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) whom she has an unreciprocated crush on, is treated like complete garbage by almost everyone at the Agency, either willingly – in the form of loose cannon field agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) – or unwittingly – by Fine himself, mostly.  When it turns out that Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), the daughter of a recently-deceased terrorist who has come into possession of a nuclear bomb, knows the identities of every single one of the CIA’s field agents, Susan steps up and volunteers to be sent into the field, aided back at the Agency by her only real friend, the anxious and slightly bumbling Nancy (Miranda Hart).

Again, this is probably the point where you’re expecting Susan to klutz her way through the operation, discovering leads by mistake, and generally proving Rick Ford right when he keeps insisting that “you’re gonna f*ck this up” to her face.  In a lesser movie, this would be the case for all of Spy’s two hours.  Here, though, that does not happen.  Susan is an immensely capable field agent, as the film bold-facedly demonstrates before she’s even sent out when the CIA’s head (Allison Janney, who is exactly as brilliant at being alternately inspiringly nice and hilariously cruel as you’re thinking she’ll be) brings up footage from her training days.  Susan is an excellent field agent, all of the skills are right there… she just doesn’t believe in herself because everyone, quite literally everyone, has told her that all she can be is a bumbling fat middle-aged woman.

Those demeaning cover identities?  Provided to her by an agency that only sees her as an ugly middle-aged woman.  Her directive to follow the targets and never directly engage?  The agency refusing to believe that she is capable of taking the lead.  Fine is a guy who can butter her up one minute by thanking her for her invaluable help and then, the next minute, treat her like a secretary and order her to fire his gardener for him; equal parts oblivious to his demeaning treatment of her, out of some misplaced fear as to what might happen to her, and perfectly aware, as he uses these stealth snipes to ensure that she can’t steal his glory by doing his job.  And Rick… well, Rick is just Fine without the veneer of obliviousness, a walking pompous macho-man who brags excessively about his undoubtedly made-up accomplishments but in practice can barely make a dramatic entrance without falling on his arse.

So when the film does provide a fat joke, and I counted maybe three in the entire movie, or dresses Susan up in hideous clothes and has lecherous men ignore her totally, Susan is not the target of the jokes.  The joke is instead on everybody else for being so unrepentantly awful towards her and the laugh coming from just how terrible they are.  Susan herself is always treated with respect and always shown to be legitimately capable, with her early-film klutzes coming from nerves more than anything else.

Compare this with a Kevin James movie.  In those, the target of the joke is nearly always Kevin James.  There is no subversive intent to Paul Blart fat jokes.  Paul is fat, he is doing things that he is supposedly not physically in shape for, and the punchline is always “fat man fall down go boom”, which is why the moments where he does display competence don’t resonate, because the film never asks you to take him seriously because he is always the target of the gag.  In Spy, though, Susan is not the target of the joke, everyone else is, and her competency is just a fact of her character.  And once she understands that she is, in fact, damn good at what she does, there’s basically no stopping her.  She’s even better than her male counterparts who are either utterly useless, lecherous, or heavily reliant on her support.

Relatedly, then: the swearing.  Believe it or not, there is actually a point to it, which may surprise you since that first Red Band trailer relied a lot on the idea that swearwords are inherently funny.  As you might have gathered, the spy world is considered a man’s game so, in Spy, the men are obsessively masculine caricatures who fill most sentences with a vocabulary akin to that of a drunk pirate who’s just stubbed his toe.  Susan and Rayna, though, are women in a man’s world, women constantly underestimated and not taken seriously by their male counterparts, so one of the ways in which they try fitting in is to awkwardly launch into sweary tirades over everything – Rayna taking to it better than Susan since she’s basically a spoilt child resentful of the fact that her father clearly wanted a son instead of her.  It’s swearing with a point instead of swearing for swearing’s sake.

And yet these gender politics and messages don’t overtake the film.  Susan’s tale of self-confidence is the primary arc and underpinning, but everything else is subtext that one doesn’t have to get to enjoy the film.  After all, Spy is more than very enjoyable on its surface terms.  It’s funny, for one.  Incredibly funny.  Paul Feig’s other similarly brilliant female-driven comedies, Bridesmaids and The Heat, were very funny but also seemed to creak under the weight of their 2 hour runtimes, unable to keep up the pace for their entirety.  Spy is somehow able to remain consistently funny throughout, as Feig’s propensity for running gags and well-defined and established characters pays off a relatively slow beginning by mining endless material from the world and characters that he’s created instead of endless non-sequiturs and improv.

He’s even able to sustain the comedy in the film’s final third, the point where the plot should take over and the jokes normally vacate the premises.  But because the script is so tight, and he does such a good job at building up the film’s various running gags and character quirks, the jokes work themselves seamlessly into the finale, as they do most other action scenes.  Yes, this is an action-comedy in the truest sense of the word, where the action sequences are equal parts funny and thrilling.  A pre-title prologue with Fine out on assignment is shot just like the action and staging in a spy thriller then contrasts that by cutting back to the mundanity of the CIA and their constant infestations, a chase to capture some would-be assassins is genuinely exciting but also knows just how much to undercut its seriousness with a joke without completely robbing the scene of tension.  But the standout is undoubtedly a one-on-one fight in a kitchen that utilises excellent fight choreography and clear camerawork to create a fight that works brilliantly and equally on both the comedy and action levels.

Then powering the film is the exceptional cast.  Jason Statham is going to get most of the attention, since he is going so against type by playing his excessive machismo for ridiculous comedy, and he does deserve that praise because he is phenomenal here, but that’s doing a disservice to the rest of the cast who are just as good and in some cases even better.  Miranda Hart is delightfully charming as Nancy, managing to infuse a genuine warmth and personality into a role that could have just been stereotypical, while Peter Serafinowicz goes the complete opposite as the sex-crazed Italian agent Aldo, playing up the character’s deranged sexual deviancy to such extremes that he manages to cross from being offensive to just plain hilarious.  Rose Byrne, meanwhile, is clearly relishing the opportunity to play Rayna and commits totally to being a stuck-up petulant child, and her dynamic with Susan is pure gold.

But the true star, unsurprisingly, is Melissa McCarthy.  McCarthy is one of the comedy world’s fastest rising stars for a reason, not even Identity Thief and the underrated-but-still-mediocre Tammy could damage that, and Spy is where even her staunchest critics will have to finally give up resisting her charms.  She seems to connect with the script in a way that goes beyond just ‘getting’ the character – which, since one can also read the film as a meta-commentary on how Hollywood sees McCarthy and other women like her, makes sense – and so every facet and every change in Susan Cooper works totally.  McCarthy gets to stretch her range, going from timidly quiet and awkward to excessively boisterous and sweary to self-confident and self-accepting, and nails all of it, hopefully finally breaking out of any potential type-casting for good.

I’m five days removed from Spy as I write this, folks, and I’m still surprised that this film is this good.  I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised, Paul Feig has nearly always been at least great and the cast is so strong that it would have taken a minor miracle to turn in a mediocre or worse film, but I’m shocked that Spy is this good.  That it has had this much thought put into it, that it would still work if you stripped out the “comedy” or “action” part of the “action comedy” equation but wouldn’t work as well as it does with both, that it bothered to have legitimate emotional and thematic through-lines propping up the comedy, that it is so well-paced, that it is just so goddamn funny…

Pessimists and cynics could see this as a damning observation on the state of the American feature-length comedy today.  That wouldn’t change the fact that Spy is the real deal and the best comedy I have seen since 22 Jump Street.  Do not miss this.

Spy is due for release on June 5th.

Callum Petch has been waiting hours for this.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Bad Neighbours and bad volcano films

Pompeii_movieWelcome one and all to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast, and we’re back to a foursome this week as Steve and Owen are Joined by Matt Lambourne and Carole Petts to discuss new releases Pompeii and Bad Neighbours.

The team also pay tribute to Bob Hoskins, who sadly passed away last week, while the films they’ve seen this week range from the 1964 Danish film Gertrude, to the fantastic documentary Queen of Versailles, via the opinion-splitting American Hustle.

Join us next week for reviews of (hopefully) The Wind Rises, Frank, and Sabotage.

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Bad Neighbours

Although it’s sometimes too crass for its own good, Bad Neighbours still succeeds by being fast, funny and surprisingly sincere.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Zac_Efron_Seth_Bad_Neighbours_640x360Bad Neighbours works for four particular reasons and being funny, which it is (really, really funny, at that), is surprisingly not number one on that list.  After all, you probably already have this film pegged.  It proudly touts how it is brought to you “by the people who made This Is The End”, it stars Seth Rogen and its various trailers have played up the loud frat nature of most of the film’s humour.  You’re probably thinking it to be yet another Apatow collective comedy: loud, improv-heavy, crass, immature, too long and with nothing going on underneath the surface.  And whilst it is often loud and crass and immature, that turns out to not be the only setting it has.  In fact, the film’s secret weapon turns out to be its total sincerity to its premise; there’s a genuine sadness bubbling underneath the mayhem which is rooted in characters with real problems that they’re venting through the central feud.  There’s more than just “Family vs. Frat” to this movie.

But we shall get to that.  Bad Neighbours follows married couple and recent parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) who are, to put it bluntly, bored.  Mac holds down a dead-end job whilst Kelly’s days are spent in the non-stop company of their newborn child, Stella, and they’re longing for some excitement.  Excitement dutifully arrives in the form of their new next-door neighbours: a college fraternity led by its committed president Teddy (Zac Efron) and his smart best friend Pete (Dave Franco).  Mac and Kelly are wary but nonetheless end up crashing the frat’s opening night party and having a good time, with Teddy and Mac even managing to start bonding.  Unfortunately, the reality of the situation soon hits the parents when the frat start partying the next night.  Until 4am.

Their pleas to keep the noise down going unheard, the pair call the cops which backfires spectacularly and leads to them becoming enemies of the frat next door.  Unable to sell their house (their delightfully scummy realtor is only willing to give them half what it cost to get the place, and that cost all of their money), their other neighbours effectively paid off by the frat to keep schtum and the college’s Dean (an almost film-stealing Lisa Kudrow) being decidedly unhelpful on the matter, Mac and Kelly plot to get the frat out by any means necessary, roping in their divorced mutual friends Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) and Paula (Carla Gallo) to help.

So, first things last; yes, Bad Neighbours is hilarious.  For a lot of people, and, you know, for a comedy, that fact is pretty frickin’ important and possibly the only thing that matters in the long run.  And it is hilarious, there’s a very strong hit/miss ratio at both the loud, crass end and the more subdued end.  The gags that do misfire are often at the crasser end of the spectrum, going too far to retain any of their humour and reaching a nadir at a protracted sequence involving Kelly having horribly disfigured un-milked breasts; a sequence that’s only barely redeemed afterwards when Mac and Kelly riff on the situation with awful pun after awful pun.  But not everything crass necessarily leads to cringes and desires to just skip ahead: an initially unfunny quick gag revealing Pete’s superhuman ability to produce a boner returns later on for a much better payoff, a standout section of an early montage involves the frat group gathering around the house to see Mac and Kelly have sex (in fact, pretty much any time the pair attempt to have sex is guaranteed several big guffaws), Christopher Mintz-Plasse gets to display quite possibly the most ridiculous gag penis in the history of cinema and the condom joke that’s been played to death in the trailers gets a far funnier punchline in the film proper.

Even outside of the bigger moments, though, the film offers up a consistent stream of solid laughs.  A falling out between Teddy and Pete leads to an extended bro-based reconciliation that actually gets funnier as the gags get worse, the entire scene with the frat’s announcement of a Robert DeNiro-themed party is a guide to how you can turn pop culture references into actual jokes near-effortlessly, both scenes with the college’s completely uncaring Dean are laugh riots and the final setpiece, where Mac and Kelly have to sneak into the frat’s house as everyone is being forced out, is the closest I’ve come to seeing videogame stealth sequences being done on film ab-verbatim and it’s friggin’ brilliant.  The laughs are extremely consistent and they run the gamut from smirks and chuckles to full on belly laughs, helped along by some ruthless editing.  Every joke and beat and plot development gets its due time to breathe but there’s no flab, here.  There are maybe three or four scenes that I noticed were predominately improv and of those I could only cut the breast milk skit (which has little relevance to anything and, as previously discussed, just isn’t funny) and maybe tighten up the pre-epilogue Mac and Kelly chat.  Otherwise, this is a lean-as-hell joke machine.  Its direction is always clear, its aim never rambles and every sequence has been constructed to provide optimum gags at a fast and furious pace.  It’s not another The Five-Year Engagement or This Is 40 is what I’m getting at.

Having said that, and as previously alluded to up top,  Bad Neighbours also carries a surprising amount of sincerity.  This is a movie that commits to its cast of characters first and its premise, frat boys vs family, is there to help drive the characters through their respective predicaments.  A lesser comedy would have had the frats be interchangeable dicks with no depth or reason to care for or hate them, even their leaders.  Bad Neighbours instead frames Teddy’s conflict with Mac as that of the character having an existential crisis; being in the final year of college with next-to-no qualifications, no career prospects and the near-literal embodiment of the future in store, quiet and old and boring, sat right next door to him.  He doesn’t even start up a feud with Mac until they call the cops because, initially, they seem like a fun version of him in 10 or so years’ time, having the house and the wife and the child but still making time to get wasted and cut loose; it’s only when Mac turns out to be everything he fears his future will be that he starts lashing out.  Now, admittedly, this is presented as almost straight text that’s basically spelled out in dialogue by another character, whereas an excellent film would leave it as subtext, but it’s still character work that gives our “villain” a reason for doing the things he does, which is an important way in getting events to resonate.

Similarly, the film uses the premise as a way to show to its lead characters just how well off they actually do have it before the frat moves in.  There’s even a point midway through the film where they’ve basically “won” the war, yet they go and stir up trouble again anyway.  Not because they still want the frat to move out but because they’re bored and this “game” is the most fun they’ve had in a year.  It even flirts with switching narrative sympathies for a short while, too, which could have led to a very interesting finale.  Alas, Teddy takes things a step too far (in a repeat piece of physical comedy that should be hilarious, but instead lands with a thud because the CG used to achieve it is ludicrously fake and cheap-looking) and the long-term stakes are re-stated and the dynamic goes back to normal.  Even if it is a little disappointing a switch-back, it still works and the finale manages to pay off the character work put in to both Teddy & Peter and Mac & Kelly in fun, surprisingly kinda affecting ways.  Nothing that will make you bawl your eyes out or anything but enough to make events on-screen matter and certainly with way more effort than both you and I were probably expecting a film like this to have.

Incidentally, I’d like to take a quick time out to praise the writing of Mac and Kelly as a married couple.  From pretty much frame one, it’s clear that the pair love each other and that they’re committed to each other.  They’re both always in with whatever the other one is cooking up and even scheme together, they’re passionate and when there needs to be a quick gag involving one of the two remarking or insinuating that they’d be willing to sleep with the very handsome Teddy if push-came-to-shove, both of them get involved with the leering.  It all helps create a real-feeling relationship.  Hell, even during the customary late-film teased break-up it lasts quite literally 94 seconds until Mac tracks down Kelly and the pair make up, their love meaning too much to seriously throw away in a brief moment like that.  The film treats them as a loving and devoted couple and trusts that we the audience can accept that as a plausible thing that could happen and it is all the better for it.  Both parties are also subjected to a roughly equal amount of gags at their expense (although Mac does get more because he’s the male lead of the film) and both parties are given equal opportunity to scheme or flip out and go crazy which THANK THE MAKER!

(That last sentence will carry a tonne of weight if, like me, you prefer to see your female comedy lead characters not just relegated to the stern buzzkill straight-man role, but that’s a rant and digression for another time.)

So we’ve already covered the laughs, the tight editing and the fact that there is emotional depth and well-handled characters.  The fourth and final point in Bad Neighbours’ favour is its superb cast.  Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne strike up a fun and very easy-going chemistry together with Byrne being better than expected at keeping up with Rogen’s improv tendencies; they give the script that extra push required to help sell the relationship at the centre of it.  Separated from each other and/or the relationship stuff, they’re still great.  Rogen has a knack for selling anything to the absolute best of his ability (excluding The Guilt Trip, I think I’m yet to see a phoned-in performance from him, in all honesty) and he puts in great work here along with his natural charisma, whilst Byrne seems to be having a tonne of fun when Kelly gets to scheme, pathetically try to act cool or just plain flip out.  Dave Franco also turns in a funny and oddly sweet supporting performance as Pete starts to develop a crisis of allegiance between Teddy and his own future as the film runs on.

The stand out, though, and this is predominately because I genuinely didn’t think he had it in him, is Zac Efron as Teddy.  To put it another way, Bad Neighbours does to my perception of Efron what 21 Jump Street did to my perception of Channing Tatum: he is excellent in this.  It’s not even because he has to play a douchebag, because Teddy isn’t really that much of a douchebag.  He’s actually a relatively nice guy who only lapses into a douche when he realises that he’s thrown away his chance at a future and the last chance he has for what he believes to be immortality is being threatened by the very people he’s terrified he will turn into in a few years.  There are times when Teddy turns full douche and Efron manages to take all of that pretty-boy charm and put it to excellent reverse-use, but the film mostly asks him to be more nuanced than that and he is more than up to the task.  Plus the guy has great comic timing as well as a good screen presence and those, combined with the aforementioned ability to tap into the sadness at the heart of such a character, are what come together to make his scene in the epilogue quite heart-warming as well as really rather funny.  Seriously, he is great in this and I hope this is the start of a career renaissance for him because Efron may have made a proper fan out of me due to his turn here.

So, yes, it is loud and crass and rude, sometimes too much so.  It earns that 15 rating and it wears it with pride, so if you don’t like that kind of humour then Bad Neighbours probably isn’t for you.  But, much like its frat, this is a film that revels in that excess in order to try and hide its true self: that this is a sweet and at times sad film about dealing with aging and mundanity.  The fact that it can communicate those things even during a scene in which Seth Rogen and Zac Efron simulate a knife fight with floppy dildos is a testament to just how important that heart is to the film’s success.  You know, as well as it being hilarious, expertly paced and very well-performed.  Point is, even if nothing about the film’s marketing is speaking to you, you should try and see Bad Neighbours anyway.  And if you are already sold on it?  You’re in for a treat, this is pretty damn great.

Callum Petch is the lyrical gangster, murderer!  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

I Give It a Year

I-Give-It-A-YearThe 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.