Tuesday, 22 January 2013


Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne) are newlyweds. In a break from romcom tradition their entire whirlwind courtship has already been presented to us by the time the opening credits have left the screen. This is a romcom about the post-golden period in a relationship when - as is made abundantly clear here - the rot sets in.

Minnie Driver and Jason Flemyng are there as Nat's sister and brother-in-law to show us just how that rot manifests. But that is about all their characters are there for. With Josh's ex Chloe (Anna Faris) and Nat's smooth new client, Guy (Simon Baker), around to provide temptation, all the elements are in place for a comedy of frayed tensions, relationship soul searching and badly timed exposure of male genitalia.

For all the impressive cast writer-director Dan Mazer has assembled, the only real comic highlights appear when Stephen Merchant is onscreen as Josh’s buffoonish mate and, somewhat predictably, giver of the de rigueur wedding-based-comedy inappropriate best man’s speech. The problem is that his character dips in and out of the film, only really appearing when it needs propped up by a bit of broad comedy. There is nothing new in Merchant's shtick (in fact, some of it is a direct crib of his mate Ricky Gervais' material on giving charity donations as gifts) but his delivery is inherently funny.

But that is really all the film is: a succession of comic actors 'doing a turn' for five minutes. Step forward Alex Macqueen's comedy vicar, Tim Key's comedy solicitor and Olivia Colman's comedy counsellor. Considering Mazer’s past, working up from producer of TV's The 11 O’Clock Show through most of Sacha Baron Cohen’s subsequent output, he doesn’t manage the singularity that he is so clearly capable of fostering elsewhere. This is entirely unsure whether it wants to be a bitter treatise on the inevitably of relationships floundering or a sweet natured romance about soulmates coming together.

For a romcom it is a rarely-fun, largely maudlin affair. It is clear to see that it is aiming to be some kind of an 'anti-romcom'; an antidote to some of the other more saccharine fare from the Working Title stable. The problem is that it isn't averse to adding a bit of artificial, carcinogenic sugar substitute in its place – but so much of it falls flat. Rafe Spall is fine as the everyman lead. His delivery consistently raises a smile in spite of some dull material about his habits. If he comes across as a slightly one-dimensional jokey blokey, that is still preferable to the abjectly awful characters he is surrounded by - not least Byrne’s horrendously shrewish new bride.

Anna Faris' Chloe is a warm presence among the vile acrimony of the rest of the coterie but her character is pretty much a rote blank canvas, whose only purpose is to provide a mirror to Byrne's lack of appeal. Likewise Baker’s Guy is the rich, successful diametric opposite of Josh and only there as a convenient plot point to absolve guilt from both sides of a potentially adulterous equation.

Twinkly romcom London is once again a wonderland of lush apartments and inordinately interesting careers, populated by Americans and people putting on English accents.

There is the odd cute observation about relationships nestled amongst the hackneyed plot and jockeying cameo appearances, but it sadly never gets much of an opportunity to develop those into anything meaningful. Learning to empty the bins or to embrace chaos is about as far as it gets.

I'd give it a miss.


No comments:

Post a Comment