As can be seen from the opening seconds of the I Give it a Year trailer, this is a romantic comedy that is -- surprise -- romantic and funny. Dan Mazer wrote and directed the utterly hilarious film that stars Rose Byrne, Anna Faris (herself a veteran of rom-coms like What's Your Number?), Simon Baker, Rafe Spall and Stephen Merchant.
We talked to Mazer (who co-wrote the screenplay for Borat of all things!) for an exclusive interview and he told us why it works so well. He took the romantic comedy and turned the entire institution on its head. Plus, it’s British and as he told us in our chat… there is a distinct difference between American rom-coms and those from the British Isles.
Movie Fanatic: What was the genesis of this wildly original romantic comedy and how it came to be?
Dan Mazer: It’s twofold. One, it’s a reaction to romantic comedies and having been burnt once too many times going to a romantic comedy that was neither romantic nor particularly comedic. I thought there is an interesting film to be made about relationships and how couples interact with each other. But, wouldn’t it be funny if that film started where every other romantic comedy ended. We start with the fairy tale wedding and look at what might happen between the couple after that fairy tale romance. Romantic comedies always are about mismatched duos who against all the odds come together. I can’t help but think, “Hold on, you shouldn’t be together. This is a disaster [laughs]. In six months' time this is going to end up in an acrimonious divorce because the reason you didn’t get on in the beginning is you're completely opposite and you are still completely opposite and this is going to be a terrible marriage.” To me, it was interesting to examine that dynamic.
Movie Fanatic: And turn the romantic comedy on its head!
Dan Mazer: Yes, and that combined with a couple of real life experiences where I was at weddings with people who I thought, “Please don’t get married.” And everyone else in the congregation knew that as well. Almost in unison at the moment of “I do,” we turn to each other and go, “I give it a year.”
Movie Fanatic: You also have a stunning cast that all brought their A-game. On paper, it’s brilliant. But when exactly did you sense that it would actually work so well on film?
Dan Mazer: It was kind of like playing fantasy football. I was given this task of managing the team of I Give it a Year to pick these actors who I have admired and loved over years. I knew all these people could act. What I wanted to do was essentially check to see that they had a comic sensibility. As opposed to making them read a scene, I sat down in a room with them and had a chat. If they made me laugh and shared my sense of humor, I thought, “Great!” So, by the time we got together for the table read, it was like a group of friends who were hanging out with each other and having a laugh. That continued through the shoot. Everyone was always trying to make each other laugh.
Movie Fanatic: Was there a scene, above all others, that was the most difficult to film because of the shared humor of the cast?
Dan Mazer: That dinner party scene near the beginning where Chloe (Anna Faris) reveals that she used to get on with Josh and that they never really split up… that felt like a dinner party that we all wanted to be at. I couldn’t stop them chatting between takes. There was a shared sensibility.
Movie Fanatic: Lastly, why do you think British romantic comedies (such as Love, Actually) do it so much better than ones out of Hollywood? It’s like night and day.
Dan Mazer: I think what it is that Brits have is an innate cynicism. We’re always looking at things pessimistically. We’re trying to undercut things. It’s our nature as a nation. What American romantic comedies often do is romance and its comedy and both of those things have the potential to be saccharine and have no sourness in there. It’s the difference between having a really rich milkshake which is American and having a nice salted caramel ice cream, which is British. There’s a dash of something in our psyche that undercuts what could be a sickeningly sweet combination of things that come in romantic comedy.