Director: Dan Mazar
Starring: Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Ralf Spall, Simon Baker, Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Olivia Colman.
Written by: Dan Mazar
Running Time: 97 mins
Release date: 8 February 2013
Regular readers will know that the genre I struggle with the most (apart from terrible modern horrors) are romantic comedies. They always seem to follow the same line: Boy meets Girl, Boy hates Girl (or vice versa), Boy and Girl are forced to get on, Boy falls in love with Girl. The predictability of the plotting, along with the unfunny script and gushing sentimentality that flows like a cut vein annoys me. So it is refreshing when a rom-com comes along that takes the formula and throws it right out the window. That is exactly what Sasha Baron Cohen’s writer Dan Mazar has done. What do you expect from the man who helped create Borat?
Nat and Josh are getting married, along with all the trimming; the embarrassingly un-PC best man’s speech from Josh’s friend, Danny, the awful “comic” routine and setting a house alight while sending Chinese lanterns into the night sky. This is a marriage that is doomed from the start, as noted by Nat’s sister. Returning from their honeymoon, the cracks are beginning to show. Nat’s a busy PR while Josh is a stay at home writer. Then two people enter their lives. Chloe, Josh’s ex who never really split up when she went to Africa for four years, and Guy, an smooth American businessman who becomes instantly infatuated with Nat, she forgetting to tell him she is married. Along with the habits, the annoying traits and these two people in their lives, Nat and Josh’s relationship maybe won’t last a year.
This is more like an anti-rom-com, like the excellent (500) Days Of Summer, taking the premise that should two people, even if they are married, stay together? Mazar’s film is a wondrous mix of the sharply observed, along with the cripplingly embarrassing and cynical look at modern love. It delivers joke after joke, most hitting the target perfectly and you find yourself one moment laughing like a loon and the next grimacing at the awkwardness of the situation.
There are some brilliantly classic set pieces: Chloe’s threesome is superbly executed, and you’ll never want to upload onto a digital photo frame again. The film does suffer in places from a mix bag of performances. Rose Byrne, more known here for Bridesmaids, is fine but she doesn’t get the lines that some of the others do and so she is forced to mug at every opportunity, which does grate a little. Simon Baker, playing the dashing, male eye candy, Guy, also is left on the sidelines as the straight man (and I don’t understand why two Australians are playing an English Rose and an American Businessman).
Anna Faris, who hasn’t been given the best material in her comic career (still think The House Bunny is her best) is good as the plain Jane, Chloe and she is allowed some room to show what she can do with a strong script, while the surprise is Ralf Spall as Josh, who almost walks away with the film as he goes from one awkward moment to the next. Definitely one actor to watch in the future.
I say almost walks away from it, if it wasn’t for the supporting cast. Minnie Driver is hilarious as the husband-hating sister with her own line of put-downs, while the always impressive Olivia Colman delivers the funniest phone call I have seen in a movie, as the marriage counselor from hell. Then there’s Stephen Merchant as Josh’s best friend. His Best Man speech is nail-bitingly embarrassing and every time he opens his mouth, you know something shocking or offensive will come out. It is what Merchant does best.
While the ending seems a little rushed and heads down the inevitable, predictable path, for the most part this is a laugh-out-loud, sometimes very rude comedy that is one of the best rom-coms I have seen in a while. Yes, it has its faults but who cares. If you are having a good time and you are entertained, what’s wrong with that. And I was certainly entertained.