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By Lauren Carroll Harris
February 25, 2013
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By Lauren Carroll Harris
February 25, 2013
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What has happened to that once glorious Hollywood staple, the romantic comedy? Even at its most saccharine, it was a dependable genre, the type that left you in a kind of terrible movie heaven of enjoyably unlikely plot premises, clueslessly fated lovers, and fairytale endings.

Trashy, sure, but reliably trashy — carefree and frothy and silly. Beautiful people, overcoming mindlessly familiar cinematic hurdles and falling in love — it's comforting stuff for hopeless romantics like myself who get most of their life philosophies from Michel Gondry films. But a genre that focuses more on seduction and courtship and the happily-ever-after, bridal magazine moments eventually leaves viewers craving something a little more substantial. After all, anyone who lives in the real world knows that the real work in relationships begins at the point where rom coms usually end: the kiss, the wedding, the honeymoon period, the beginning.

The reality and ridiculousness and complexity of relationships and sex and romance — surely this is the kind of thing that mainstream film should finally start getting right. That's why I Give It a Year should work. British director Dan Mazer has styled it as a renovated, thinking-person's rom com, one that starts at the wedding and explores the difficulty of staying in love. It's a worthwhile project, and one that The Simpsons creative director James L. Brooks has made into a career. Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment, and even the cruelly critically maligned How Do You Know? all subtly inverted the rom com rules by showing more realistic characters with more realistic relationships. And they were funnier for their closer collision with real life.

Mazer has his work cut out for him by Brooks. Rose Byrnes' highly strung Nat and Rafe Spall's man-boy Josh are not meant to be — they marry too quickly and are obviously more suited to the two supporting characters, played by Simon Baker (on charismatic autopilot) and Anna Faris (on tedious autopilot. Why is she a thing?).

But ultimately the film refuses to bust out of the conventional rom com template. Its plot remains face-punchingly implausible, its characters straitjacketed by stereotype, and its humour terminally planted in Mazer's familiar ground of extreme awkwardness and feeble frat-boy crassness. This is, after all, the man who produced Borat and Sacha Baron Cohen's other cinematic mis/adventures. Oddly enough for a love story, I Give It a Year fails to get to any kind of genuine emotional core for the characters or their relationships.

Perhaps the highlight of the film is Rose Byrnes' wardrobe, a procession of pastel cashmere sweaters and tailored designer clothing this reviewer will never, ever be able to afford.

Yes, Byrnes and Baker are lovely to watch, but it is frankly demoralising to see them wasting their presence on such an eye-rollingly unfunny project. The Office's Stephen Merchant is particularly misused given his considerable comedic talents. Despite its admirable aims, I Give It A Year is a 102-minute exercise in endurance.

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