"Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance."
In Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen's heroine Elizabeth Bennet has few choices in life, while the world is Mr. Darcy's oyster. How times have changed. Where once people longed for love and settled for security, now modern day heroines can pick and choose. But is the outcome any different? According to the movie I Give It a Year, perhaps it is.
Unlike Jane Austen's novels, which always end with the marriage ceremony, I Give It a Year starts with the orange blossom, embarrassing best man's speech and the groom's ill-advised novelty dance. It all goes downhill from there -- until the last few moments when Love Conquers All and we leave the cinema with a smile and a sigh and a sense of contentment.
Which is just how it should be. The four central characters re-align into the proper formation (this is not a plot spoiler, but it's sweetly done when it happens). Super-smooth American businessman Guy (played by Australian charmer Simon Baker) smolders meaningfully at over-achieving British Nat (the repressive passions of fellow Australian Rose Byrne). But Nat has only just married laconic and boyish novelist Josh (Rafe Spall) after a whirlwind romance. Cue confusion during an achingly awkward middle class English dinner party when Anna Faris (understated as a brunette and with a wry sense of humor) enters the picture.
Interestingly the film is being pitched as an anti-rom-com and it certainly twists the knife into modern relationships and the bitter tedium of bickering in-laws (played brilliantly by Minnie Driver and Jason Flemyng). Screenwriter and director Dan Mazer, known mostly for his collaborations with Borat's Sacha Baron Cohen, provides lines that shock and comedy vignettes that make you squirm. The supporting cast is given delicious scene stealing moments from Stephen Merchant's appalling funny best man/best friend/sidekick to Olivia Colman's off the wall therapist and Minnie Driver's lascivious response to a Justin Bieber video: "I'd ruin Bieber" -- and she doesn't mean financially.
If you're an Anglophile, you'll love the movie. London looks glorious in the rain. There are lots of frenzied passions in rain-splattered doorways. Train stations are as romantic a setting as Noel Coward wrote in Brief Encounter. The action moves between cozy Victorian pubs to ultra modern offices with breathtaking views of the skyline and onto the awful yet obligatory country house weekend for Christmas with the relatives.
In contrast with Jane Austen's time, the wedding service is not the end of the plot or even the beginning of a marriage. I Give It a Year does just that -- it gives us the first year -- in all its dreadful disappointments and glimpses of glory with a sweet resolution that proves love is elusive and impossible to explain but in the end, a very brave choice.
I Give It a Year is released in the USA on August 9, 2013, Certificate R.