AUSTIN, Texas -- As filmmaking partners go, they make strange bedfellows: Dan Mazer, writer of ribald Sacha Baron Cohen satires "Borat" and "Bruno," and Working Title, the British production company behind breezy romantic comedies "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Love Actually," have partnered on a new and unconventional entry in the date-night genre.
"I Give It a Year," which makes its North American premiere Saturday at the South by Southwest Film Festival, begins where most romantic comedies end--with the fairy tale wedding of its protagonists, type-A advertising executive Nat (Rose Byrne) and loafing writer Josh (Rafe Spall). Rather than building up to a romantic climax, Nat and Josh seem to be devolving from one, amid nitpicky fights, familial judgments and a pair of extramarital distractions played by Anna Faris and Simon Baker.
"The everyday annoyances of married life can become overwhelming," said Mazer, who is making his directorial debut. "I wanted to do a comedy about realities. So many rom-coms are neither particularly romantic nor comedic, just some far-fetched story about a dipsy PR girl and an Australian sheep farmer."
The film takes many of the obligatory romantic comedy tropes -- the awkward wedding toast, the rain-soaked epiphany, the last-minute dash for a train -- and subverts them, as its characters become increasingly disenchanted with each other.
At one point Nat's acid-tongued sister, played by Minnie Driver, sniffs that a scene is “just like a Hugh Grant film.”
But sending up a genre and existing within it are tricky to do. By partnering with Working Title, Mazer said, he had expert guides to the romantic-comedy form.
"There was something that appealed to me about going to the Citadel of rom-coms," Mazer said. "Everybody knows the best thieves are people who previously worked in the police. They know the rules. And they were brilliant in curbing my more cynical sentiments and instincts."
Mazer, whose film has already opened in England and Australia, will be seeking a U.S. distributor at SXSW.
His movie's release has already stirred a domestic controversy of sorts for the married father of two.
"The main male character is a lazy, feckless writer and I am much the same," Mazer said. "The way he pushes the trash down in the bin rather than emptying it? I’ve spent eight years of my marriage denying that I do that. Now I'm completely busted."