Netflix, knowing me so well, has created a tab of British movies. I came across this one last night and, honestly, I had never heard of this movie. Was this released in the US? Google tells me it was released here last August, but I have no memory of a single commercial for it. Anyway, I decided to watch it because a-it’s British, b-it’s set in London, c-Stephen Merchant is in it.
They’ve only been dating for a few months when they get engaged, and then married. We don’t even really see them before their marriage, the movie starts with a sort of ‘first moments’ montage, and then the wedding is just finishing when we are really brought into the action.
Minnie Driver (who I love) plays that friend (who hates her husband as often as she loves him) that says ‘I give it a year’.
The action switches back and forth from the first moments of their marriage (disasters aplenty–the minister comes down with a hideous cough just as he is about to announce them man and wife, and Stephen Merchant gives one of the most horrific best man speeches in human history) to many months later, when they are beginning couples therapy with the worst therapist in the world (Olivia Colman).
There are little quibbles they have with each other. Josh is too lazy to take out the trash, so he ‘compacts’ it, so that he can wait a few more days without taking it out. Nan persistently sings incorrect lyrics to songs (We built this city on the wrong damn road, I travel the world in generic jeans, etc.)
Throughout that first year of marriage, the couple is orbited by two alternate choices. Chloe, played by Anna Faris in a bad wig, and Guy, played by Simon Baker:
Can I just ask who came up with the names for these people? Josh and Chloe are normal enough, I suppose. But Nan and Guy? Sounds like they belong in a ’50s musical about an upcoming sock hop. But I digress.
Chloe is Josh’s ex, a relentless do-gooder with almost no other personality traits that I can remember. Guy is a business mogul who immediately develops a crush on Nan. This crush is fostered by the fact that Nan hides her wedding ring when she’s working with him.
Both Josh and Nan slip from focusing on their marriage and both come very close to an affair. But the couple are determined to make it through the first year of marriage, because someone told them that ‘if you can make it through the first year, you can make it through anything’. Josh doesn’t correct Nan when she sings the wrong lyrics, and he takes out the trash when he should.
And they do, they make it to the exact anniversary of their wedding.
And then, that very night, they split up. They are so glad to be rid of this marriage that they’re almost ecstatic to get a divorce. They both run off to find their other, better matches. And these two separate new couples ride off into the proverbial sunset.
And here’s my big problem with this movie. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, or even particularly inaccurate about the trials and tribulations of living with one person as your partner in life. My boyfriend bites his fingernails, and it drives me completely insane. He is also guilty of the trash smushing maneuver. He’s kind enough not to point out my annoying habits, but I’m certain there are many–like me constantly asking him not to bite his fingernails, I would guess…
This movie tries to show how marriage does not always end in ‘happily ever after’. It shows you what happens after the fairy tale wedding, when reality hits. Okay, good, I’m in favor of that. But, in the end, when Josh and Nan break up and immediately form relationships with other people, the implication is that if you do match up with the right person, then ‘happily ever after’ is almost guaranteed. Every relationship in real life is more like Nan and Josh’s than the fairytale relationships Nan and Guy or Josh and Chloe will have. It really irritated me to end the movie with just a simple swap and everything is fine. They haven’t learned anything, except that they’re not right for each other? And Chloe and Guy are pretty lacking in personality. They just wait for the other two to come around and want to be with them. And then, easy peasy, they do a swap and everyone is happy and everything will be perfect from now on.
In the end, the good acting almost saved this movie for me, but since the very end was the most disappointing, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I wish I’d liked it more, because I like everyone in it. All the hype about it being from the same producers who made Notting Hill and Love Actually...it is nothing like those movies.
Also, I found this very strange French poster for it, where the translated title is English Marriage. Apparently the French have different problems in the first year of marriage? Maybe there was no similar idiom in the French, and they don’t cynically predict a couple’s demise while still celebrating their creation. But if I was going to predict which country is not cynical enough for something, the French would not be my choice. And why is only one of the umbrellas the Union Jack? So many questions for whomever changes DVD posters for foreign releases..