Cinema Review: I Give It a Year


DIR/WRI: Dan Mazer PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Kris
Thykier DOP: Ben Davis ED: Tony Cranstoun DES: Simon Elliott Cast:
Rafe Spall, Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Jason Flemyng, Olivia
Colman, Stephen Merchant, Minnie Driver

A frequent collaborator of Sacha Baron Cohen (who can currently be
seen flexing his musical muscles in the awards-laden Les Miserables),
Dan Mazer forged his reputation as a producer/writer in both
television and film, with his crowning moment to date being his
Oscar-nominated work on the screenplay for Borat: Cultural Learnings
of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, which went
down a storm upon its release Stateside.

He has previously worked on the small screen as a director of certain
segments of Da Ali G Show, as well as the Zach Galifianakis-starring
Dog Bites Man, but I Give It a Year marks his first foray into silver
screen helming.

Featuring an instantly recognisable cast of British and overseas
talent, I Give It a Year focuses on Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne’s
newlywed couple, who find themselves in a real bind just nine months
into their marriage. Mostly told in a series of flashbacks with Olivia
Colman’s marital counselor, we witness the ups and downs of this
initially happy union, and how they are affected by their specific

On hand to complicate the equation are Spall’s former flame Anna
Faris, who has returned from her charitable endeavours overseas, and
the roguishly charming Simon Baker, who is more than willing to mix
business with pleasure in his dealings with Byrne.

Aiming to become a breakaway British comedy success, like Bridget
Jones’s Diary and Four Weddings and a Funeral before it, I Give It a
Year is a somewhat uneven comedy, which sometimes tries too hard to
keep the laughter ratio on the right track, but nevertheless has
enough moments to sustain its relatively slender running time.

Key to the film’s sustainability are some fine supporting performances
from reliable faces like Jason Flemyng, Stephen Merchant and Minnie
Driver, the latter of whom is enjoying a mini-revival on the strength
of roles in the Conviction, Barney’s Version and the underrated Hunky

Her part is that of the bride’s best friend, which so often comes
across as stereotypical or caricatured, but thanks to the chemistry
between Driver and on-screen husband Flemyng, she helps to conjure up
some of the film’s biggest laughs.

Merchant is also entertaining, if a little underused (much like The
Farrelly Brothers’ Hall Pass) as Spall’s best man, while Colman
displays the comic chops that she honed in Hot Fuzz and Peep Show
before winning widespread acclaim for her extraordinary performance in
Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur.

In terms of the four-way romance at the heart of the film, the
Spall-Faris thread is more effective, as it is easier to symphatise
with with the husband’s predicament, given the warm history that he
shares with his former partner. Byrne, who showed in Get Him to the
Greek and Bridesmaids that she can be a dab hand at comedy, suffers
more when it comes to characterisation, though she does her level best
to make it work, as does Baker, her fellow Aussie co-star.

Spall, who is starting to step away from the shadow of his
highly-respected father Timothy, is a very engaging male lead, while
Faris (who is so often let down by the script in her chosen projects)
is as likeable as ever.

A neat twist on the standard rom-com finale aside, there is little
here that you won’t have seen before, and the jokes are quite often
‘hit and miss’, but Mazer’s film has more than enough going for it to
keep audiences onside.

Daire Walsh

16 (see IFCO website for details)

97 mins

I Give It a Year is released on 8th February 2013

I Give It a Year – Official Website


Cemetery Junction

Cemetery Junction

DIR/WRI: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant • PRO: Sue Baden-Powell, Ricky Gervais, Charlie Hanson, Stephen Merchant • DOP: Remi Adefarasin • ED: Valerio Bonelli • DES: Anna Higginson • CAST: Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, Jack Doolan, Felicity Jones

Those who despaired at Ricky Gervais’ previous almost-a-good-movie The Invention of Lying felt a tad more comfortable at the re-instatement of Stephen Merchant as co-conspirator for Cemetery Junction. The force that brought us endless nights of TV chuckles would surely transcend the banality of Gervais’ previous attempts at big-screen triumph, and create a movie worth watching. That they chose not to wallow in past glories and simply create a big-screen comedy in the lines of The Office et al shows a maturing of comedic and artistic creativity that can only mean bigger and better things to come.

Cemetery Junction is not a masterpiece, and nor is it original in either concept or execution. Small-town ruffians hoping to leave their estates, and transcend their ordinary beginnings to leave their mark on the world, is well-trodden ground. However, it has all the seeds of promise and enough entertainment combined with quality scripting and acting to make it an eminently watchable movie. The script is obviously a labour of love, and revisits the scenes of Gervais’ earlier commentary on getting caught (and run over) in the treadmill of life; Reading. Here we meet Freddie, Bruce and Snork, each playing standard roles of 1970’s inert youth – apart from Freddie, who has been employed recently as a life insurance salesman. Freddie (Christian Cooke) works for Mr. Kendrick, played with bastardly delight by Ralph Fiennes, a man who once lived in the dead-end titular Cemetery Junction, but has ‘made good’. Freddie at first aspires to his lifestyle, but begins to question it all as he is faced with his boss’s ghost-like wife (Emily Watson) and enthusiastically mercenary protégé Mike (Matthew Goode). Into the mix also enters old-flame Julie, who also happens to be both Mr. Kendrick’s daughter and fiancée to the dismissive Mike. Whilst Freddie struggles with the question of what to do with his life, not wanting to end up in the factory like his Dad (played by Gervais) or best friend Bruce, matters begin to come to a head of their own volition. Bruce is a fiery young rebel, achingly angry at everything around him – Tom Hughes plays the role perfectly, a fantastic mix of Francis Begbie and Russell Brand, and brings heart to an otherwise stale role. Indeed, the acting lifts a very good script into sounding great – though there are jarring moments as an obvious ‘Gervais-ism’ is spoken by Fiennes or others, drawing attention to the strings behind the story.

The music jollies everything along – as you would expect from a soundtrack of the ’70s – and the bright story and brighter visuals make it a real feel-good movie. Whilst lacking in originality, it makes up for it in spades by delivering a smile-inducing film braced with chuckles, and surprisingly tender scenes. Tom Hughes in particular brings a depth to his role that may not have been immediately visible on paper. His interaction with his alcoholic father, a brilliantly understated performance by Francis Magee, catches you short in the middle of laughing, almost reaching the kitchen-sink realism of customary factory-life fare, and certainly leaving a lump in your throat.

Whilst not the magnum opus we might have expected from this pairing, it is a very solid foundation for better things. Cracks might be visible, but hopefully these will be patched up for future ventures, and we will continue to see great things from this pairing. Though lacking in freshness and grating at times, Cemetery Junction is nonetheless a truly enjoyable piece of work – a by-the-book feel-good movie that delivers on giggles, if not on story.

Sarah Griffin
(See biog here)

Rated 15A (see IFCO for details)

Cemetary Junction is released 16th April 2010

Cemetary Junction – Official Website