The advertisements for 'I Give it a Year' make sure you know that it's "a new comedy from the writer of 'Borat' and the producers of 'Love Actually.' Given that I find 'Borat' absolutely hilarious and that I adore the hell out of 'Love Actually,' I couldn't wait to receive my copy of 'I Give it a Year.' It's so promising! The Blu-ray cover art notes two four-star reviews from Heat and FHM, as well as a quote from Empire's review that reads, "A sharp, smart comedy with huge laughs." Prior to watching it, I was certain that I was going to love this movie. Now, having seen it, the only thing that I'm certain of is that anyone who has praised 'I Give it a Year' didn't actually watch it. What a pessimistic, bitter, and un-fun movie.
The movie opens with a montage showing our leading couple Josh and Nat (Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne) meeting, falling in love, and getting married. At the end of this sweet little sequence, from the audience attending their wedding, we see a yet-to-be introduced character (Minnie Driver) negatively utter the movie's title, "I give it a year." After the title, we cut to nine months down the line. Josh and Nat's marriage is on the brink of divorce, which is no surprise because of how rudely they treat one another. I understand what this intro sequence was trying to do – to show that 'I Give it a Year' picks up where most rom-coms leave off – but cutting straight to bickering and nasty meanness gives us the impression that's how these two have always been. Because we never got a sense of what they were like before the fighting began, this is all we know. A series of flashbacks are shown throughout the movie, but they only further elaborate on the nastiness that existed in their marriage from the get-go, never the tender romance that once existed.
Of course, seeing Josh and Nat act this way, we're made to think, "I give it a year" too. If they're this awful after just nine months, there's no way that it's going to work. Divorce is the only way out. Being a romantic at heart, if I'm personally rooting for a couple's divorce, then there's really something wrong with the way that couple is set up.
Josh and Nat both claim that they're devoted to giving their marriage a fighting chance, but only play with fire. They go through the motions, but lacking true love, they both look for the romance outside their own marriage. Nat, a stern and strong business woman, begins flirting with a client (Simon Baker), even removing her wedding ring and leading him to believe that she's single. Nat tells herself that she's doing it just to earn his business, but that's obviously not the case. Josh also toys with the affection of another woman, but doesn't take it as far as Nat. One of Josh's best friends (Anna Faris) is also one of his ex-girlfriends. He tries to help her with her failed attempts at a relationship, so his innocent flirtations aren't nearly as self-fulfilling as Nat's – but no matter which of the two is more in-the-wrong, they're both the cause of their own troubles.
Going back to Empire's pull quote from the cover art, I have no idea how they could find 'I Give it a Year' worthy of calling "sharp" or "smart," let alone a "comedy with huge laughs." There's nothing sharp or smart about it. If it's worthy of being deemed a comedy, then it's a black comedy - which don't feature "huge laughs." 'I Give it a Year' is serious. Too serious. It spends its time pointing out how stupid marriage is, not generating huge laughs. I know nothing about writer Dan Mazer (because there's little information about him on the web), but based on 'I Give it a Year,' it feels like he just came out of an awful marriage and decided to voice his hopelessly negative feelings about it in this screenplay. It's not fun. It's not charming. Just because the Blu-ray case makes mention of 'Love Actually,' don't fall for the idea that 'I Give it a Year' is anything like it.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Magnolia Home Entertainment has placed 'I Give it a Year' on a Region A BD-50 in a standard blue Elite keepcase. The disc begins with a forced Magnolia vanity reel and a commentary disclaimer, followed by skippable trailers for 'Prince Avalanche,' 'Drinking Buddies,' 'Syrup,' 'Touchy Feely' and the channel AXS.TV Live.
Shot digitally, I expected the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoding of 'I Give it a Year' to be pretty fantastic, but in actuality, it's quite unimpressive. For some reason, a large (and inconsistent) chunk of the film appears to have been shot like a Nancy Meyers movie – with an excessive use of soft focus. The lighting in those scenes carries an overly glowing effect. Even if this is a directorial decision, it chews up a great amount of the movie's should-be details. The contrast is also heavy on the bright end. Yes, there are some instances of fine details and great black levels, but they're hidden, only popping up now and again.
Because the movie carries several clubbing/party scenes, there are great instances of bright and colorful lighting. Unfortunately, just like the soft focus, the colors in these wildly neon club scenes bleed into the other on-screen objects. The rest of the film has a pretty wide palette, showing an array of nice colors throughout.
Oddly, from the opening sequence on, there are sporadic scenes that carry distracting digital noise. The flaw isn't constant and it doesn't consume the entire frame, but it's present and will definitely catch your eye.
'I Give it a Year' carries a decent solitary 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. Although I would hardly classify the movie as a romantic comedy, it carries a standard rom-com mix. The major widely-spread aspect of this track is the music. Be it the movie's scoring or in-movie music, the music is always loud and spread throughout all the channels. Clubbing music nicely thumps to life with deep bass levels.
The vocal mixing is clean and clear. The levels are perfectly matched with the music so that no words are lost under beneath the music. The only downside is that most of the dialog is placed front and center.
Effects are also front heavy, but there's one setting that brings out the dynamics – the streets of London. Lots of little scenes (and a few big ones) take place in the bustling streets. Then, and only then, are the effects richly mixed. Vehicles seamlessly image from left to right. The rear channels become just as lit up with effects as the surround and front channels. The only other scene to come close to this is the opening wedding reception with its background chit-chat.
I like a good British rom-com. With the involvement of people who gave us 'Love Actually' and 'Borat, you'd expect a great deal of romance and comedy from 'I Give it a Year' – but, unfortunately, it doesn't qualify as romantic or comedic. The bitter and pessimistic tale of a newlywed couple facing marriage trials outweighs anything positive that the movie may hold. The lack of romance and comedy keep it from being entertaining. If anything, 'I Give it a Year' plays out like a too-serious cautionary drama regarding the woes of marriage, as if it's trying to give dating couples the perspective of how bad marriage can be. I could even argue that it's meant to ease the fear that may be keeping troubled married couples from following through with divorce. Only knowing the leading couple as the selfish and bickering people that they are post-marriage, even as an audience member you'll want to see them call it quits. Not even the technical aspects of this Blu-ray can make it enticing. The video quality is soft and the front-heavy audio is flat. Although there are 90+ minutes of special features, they're not of the strong kind. Nearly 60 of those minutes are clogged with repetitive interviews; the behind-the-scenes bits, bloopers, and deleted scenes aren't anything special. If you've been mislead to believe that 'I Give it a Year' might be worthwhile - like I was - forget about it. I gave it a shot and wish I hadn't.