Can a comedy be too funny for its own good? I Give It a Year generates huge belly laughs from its opening scene at the disastrous nuptials of Pat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall), which are disrupted by everything from a priest who gets an unfortunately timed coughing fit to a wildly inappropriate speech by the best man (Stephen Merchant), who roasts the couple instead of toasting them.
Pat and Josh have only known each other for seven months. Refreshingly, their Rom-Com 101 courtship is dispatched with during the opening credits, sparing the audience of the usual getting-to-know-you boredom. But their rush to tie the knot leads Pat’s glum sister Naomi (Minnie Driver) to mutter the movie’s title during the wedding reception. She has resigned herself to an unhappy marriage to a dullard (Jason Flemyng), and she has less than zero confidence in the newlyweds’ odds at happiness.
I Give It a Year, which is set in London, initially feels like Notting Hill or Love Actually as reimagined by Sacha Baron Cohen. The movie marks the directorial debut of Dan Mazer, who previously co-wrote Borat and Brüno and brings that same sort of rude humor to a genre that usually opts for more tasteful gags. But unlike, say, Bridesmaids, which took breaks from the funny in order to give its heroine’s dilemma emotional weight, I Give It a Year plays everything for jokes — a marriage counselor (Olivia Colman) who couldn’t care less about her clients; a suave businessman (Simon Baker) who sends Pat’s eyes roaming; the romantic misadventures of Josh’s ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris), who at one point ends up in an amusingly awkward three-way. The results can be hilarious, but they also sabotage the movie, turning it into a cartoon.
Byrne and Spall are terrific together as the two noble, good-hearted leads who just may not be made for each other, and occasionally the film figures out a way to treat their growing annoyance with each other realistically, like a car ride during which Josh snaps at Pat for mangling the lyrics to the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (“I travel the world in generic jeans,” Pat sings.) I Give It a Year is surprisingly good at documenting the seemingly insignificant things that can gradually lead two people to fall out of love. But the movie’s obsession with constantly landing laughs wears you out. Like Pat and Josh, you fall instantly in love with I Give It a Year, but by the end you’re glad to see it go.