“Oh, it’s just like a Hugh Grant film!” squeals one character in writer-director David Mazer’s debut feature, inadvertently summing up the split-personality vibe that characterizes this venal attempt at a pomo rom-com. We’re supposed to wink knowingly as Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall) meet under a cascade of literal fireworks and make mutual goo-goo eyes during a prematrimony montage, yet genuinely worry about them when the couple ends up in counseling several months down the line. We’re continually nudged toward thinking the film resembles a you-know-who star vehicle from the ’90s, complete with a bumbling, stammering, handsome Brit lead (Year’s production company, Working Title Films, is in fact best known for giving us Four Weddings and a Funeral), while every other character revels in the sort of gratuitously nasty cringe comedy one associates with the here and now. It wants fans of the genre to have their cake while calling them the c-word, too.
Only nothing works: not the haphazard stabs at conjuring a sweet-and-sour comic tone, not the reliance on people saying horribly inappropriate things in lieu of actual jokes, and not the one-note characters that waste the talent of poor Anna Faris and Simon Baker (whose handsome mogul might as well be named Tempty T. Temptation). Such manic fumblings and desperate crassness might be more forgivable were any of it actually, y’know, funny, but other than Olivia Colman’s occasional cameos as a raging therapist, the laughs have been granted a leave of absence. Life is too short to be with the wrong person, the film tells us, but what it’s really saying is that life is too short to waste on bad movies. Don’t even give it 97 minutes.
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