Although fans of British romantic comedies have been enduring something of a dry spell in the decade since “Love, Actually,” “I Give It a Year” ought to satisfy them for, well, at least 12 months.
Equally sweet and acerbic, old-fashioned and raunchy, the film stars Rose Byrne (“Bridesmaids”) and Rafe Spall (“Life of Pi”) as a young and attractive pair of unhappily marrieds whose absurdly sad fate seems foretold when, at the altar, the minister chokes on the words, “I now pronounce you.” Call the movie “One Wedding and a Funeral,” the joke being that this marriage is D.O.A.
Released to U.K. theaters around Valentine’s Day, the film is now available stateside via video-on-demand platforms such as iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Xbox Video.
“I Give It a Year” takes its title from the snotty prediction of the bride’s sister Naomi (Minnie Driver), although her estimate may be overly optimistic. The ink on the wedding papers is barely dry when high-powered London ad woman Nat (Byrne) finds herself almost powerless to resist the advances of a millionaire American client (Simon Baker, once again channeling the young Robert Redford). Meanwhile, Nat’s goofy hubby, Josh (Spall), a vaguely accomplished author in the throes of writer’s block, hasn’t resolved his feelings for Chloe (Anna Faris), whom he used to date.
Hints of 1930s and ’40s Hollywood screwball appear throughout the peppy film, whose first-time director, Dan Mazer, adds plenty of off-color humor to keep things not just contemporary, but even a touch subversive. As Josh’s irrepressibly lewd friend Danny, Stephen Merchant lets loose with stream-of-consciousness riffs so vulgarly inappropriate as to rattle the film’s rom-com foundations.
That Spall and Byrne manage to pull things back on track is a credit to their considerable charisma, even as their characters — despite a short history of apparently awesome sex — remain utterly wrong for each other.
Also new to VOD
Another lively British import, Danny Boyle’s “Trance,” is ripe for reappraisal only a few months after a criminally brief theatrical run made it one of the least appreciated features ever delivered by a recent Oscar-winning director. (Boyle took the Academy Award for “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2009.) Nominally a thriller about an art heist, the well-named “Trance” is really more of an exercise in repeatedly messing with the viewer’s head through a series of narrative concussions and intense visuals that look especially hypnotic in high definition.
“Grabbers,” also from the U.K., is a mildly entertaining tongue-in-cheek horror opus in which bloodthirsty, booze-averse aliens descend upon an Irish coastal town whose residents’ love of alcohol could prove to be their saving grace.
Rob Nelson is a National Society of Film Critics member whose reviews appear regularly in the trade magazine Variety.