Who would’ve thought that a heartfelt and—dare I say, realistic—romantic comedy about the plight that is modern-day thirtysomethings’ journey to the altar would come from the same guys behind Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek?
Who’s in it? Jason Segel (Tom), Emily Blunt (Violet), Chris Pratt (Alex), Alison Brie (Suzie)
What’s it about? Tom and Violet meet, fall in love, and get engaged. They start planning their wedding in their hometown of San Francisco, but before things really get rolling, Violet is accepted into a prestigious program at the University of Michigan. They delay the wedding, move to the Midwest, and then life continues to get in the way of their nuptials. Meanwhile, their family members grow extremely impatient (or, um, die off).
What’s good? I’ve never been a Segel fan, though he grew on me significantly in The Muppets. In this film, however—and perhaps it was the excellent chemistry he had with (or just the mere presence of) Emily Blunt—I thought he was great. His Tom is a guy who’s so supportive of his fiancée’s professional opportunities that he’s willing to move with her halfway across the country . . . but as the months pass, he’s not so love-sick that he fails to realize how his own career dreams are dying. He’s able to portray a delicate balance of frustration, depression, confusion, and jealousy. And Blunt’s Violet is a smart, driven woman, but not the CAREER OR FAMILY THERE IS NO IN-BETWEEN stereotype that inhabits some films. Rather, Violet realizes the toll her decisions have taken on Tom, it’s just that she doesn’t know how to make things better for him, or for them as a couple. Another way of putting all of this is that The Five-Year Engagement is going to hit very close to home for many couples in their late twenties and thirties who are trying to figure out how to be happy in relationships without totally compromising their career plans for the other person. There is no easy answer, and Segel and Nicholas Stoller (the director and Segel’s co-writer) don’t try to force one.
As a foil to the engaged couple were Chris Pratt and Alison Brie as Tom’s randy friend and Violet’s reserved (or so she thinks) sister. I don’t want to say anything else about the roles they play in the story, but I will say that they both stole every scene they were in.
(On a personal side note as a University of Michigan alum, another thing I loved about the film was all of its Ann Arbor-ness. Tom should have been HONORED to work at the one and only, internationally acclaimed Zingerman’s. Go Blue!)
What could’ve been better? At just over two hours, The Five-Year Engagement overstays its welcome. Its running time is a product of its creative team not wanting to serve up a by-the-numbers rom-com, but there still were some scenes that could’ve been sped up or cut so that the pace wasn’t sluggish in the second act. What’s more, I could’ve done without the film’s high number of f-bombs and crude jokes, which I like to call let’s-insert-an-f-bomb-here-’cause-that’ll-make-it-funnier-right? writing. I’ve had this same complaint about several other Judd Apatow-directed or produced movies. Some of the film’s naughtier humor was hilarious simply because it was refreshingly honest, but at other times it struck me as nothing more than lazy script-writing.
The bottom line: Finally, a romantic comedy that raises the bar for its genre. It didn’t have to run a full two hours, but at least the majority of that time is spent laughing or relating to memorable characters that could actually exist in real life.
Redbox movies featuring The Five-Year Engagement cast: