Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Five-Year Engagement (2012) - Movie Review

Jason Segel and Emily Blunt star as Tom and Violet, a couple living in San Francisco that have been dating for a year.  In what shouldn't be a spoiler to anyone, since it's the title of the frigging movie, they get engaged.  Due to career changes and other issues that come up, they have to keep delaying their wedding.  This gets stretched out over several years, once again illustrated by the title.  Can you have spoilers when the title is, in itself, a spoiler?

Right out of the gate, The Five-Year Engagement is very funny and San Francisco natives will probably get a kick out of seeing many familiar sites.  At one point, even I laughed when they went to a neighborhood a friend of mine used to live in and I was like, "Hey, I've been there a bunch before!"  The familiarity helped me get into the movie and identify with it.

Anyway, shortly after their engagement, Violet gets accepted to a two-year graduate program at the University of Michigan. As a compromise, they decide to postpone the wedding and Tom quits his chef job.  Unfortunately, this happens just as he's about to be named head chef of a new restaurant, so as they are leaving there's already an element of 'what could have been' for Tom. Things are going well for Violet after the move, but Tom has difficulty getting work and has too much time on his hands.  Having a lot of time to think probably isn't the best thing in this situation.

As the movie progresses, Violet's stay in Michigan is extended further due to her success and things continue to get worse for Tom.  It becomes less about their engagement and more about how they keep dealing with the strains of their careers, being away from their family and friends and Tom's resentment and depression about the whole situation.  Eventually, it gets to the point where they doubt their whole relationship. 

While that may make it sound like the movie is depressing, it managed to be consistently funny.  It's one of those movies where people were laughing enough that sometimes you couldn't always hear the next thing said.  Like many Judd Apatow-produced comedies, it's a little on the raunchier side for a rom-com.  However, it still manages to feel realistic and have a little more substance that you would normally expect.  I'm reminded of Funny People, another movie that was very funny but ended up dealing with some serious issues.  While The Five-Year Engagement is not a totally conventional rom-com, the way the story develops doesn't leave you with many places to go, so you know how it's going to play out.  The ending had an almost magical, fairy tale feel to it, but at the same time didn't seem cheesy.  

A comedy is usually only as good as it's supporting cast and this doesn't disappoint.  Many of the supporting roles really stand out.  Alison Brie is great as Violet's sister and fans of Community may be surprised to see her speaking with a British accent.  She ends up in a relationship with one of Tom's chef friends, played by fellow NBC Thursday night alum, Chris Pratt.  Those two steal every scene they are in.  Tom's co-worker, played by comedian Brian Posehn, has some great lines, and Chris Parnell was funny as a 'faculty husband'.  The research team Violet works with, featuring Rhys Ifans, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling and Randall Park are consistently funny.  I think I enjoyed the supporting characters more than the leads.

That doesn't mean I have an issue Blunt or Segel though.  Emily Blunt keeps up her streak of having great chemistry with whoever she seems to be cast against.  I think she might be the reigning queen of romantic comedies.  Jason Segel gives another good performance as well and it's hard not to sympathize with what his character is going though.  Together, they make for a cute couple and you want to see them work things out.

Director/co-writer Nicholas Stoller teamed up with Jason Segel again and did a pretty good job balancing out the cast and all the elements of the story.  They previously collaborated on Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek and The Muppets, so you can find a lot of similarities to all of their previous films in The Five-Year Engagement.

It's not a perfect film though. The main problem with the movie is that it's a little long and starts to drag on a bit.  Granted, with it being 'The Five-Year Engagement' and not 'The One-Year Engagement', they have to cover a lot of time, but it gets to a point where you start to wonder exactly how much of their life we going to witness and if it was actually going to end.  This seems to be a recurring thing with other films in the Apatow family in that they run just a tad too long.  It's a minor complaint though.

There's a part (and I will try not to spoil it) that seemed to be edited very poorly, where a character is getting progressively drunker despite that you haven't seen him drink anything for a while.  While this is happening, their state of undress is also extremely inconsistent.  The scene was done for laughs, so it's easy to forgive and some may not even notice it, but it really stuck out to me as odd.  Oh and speaking of undress, I can probably use a little less nudity from Jason Segel moving forward.

As I commented in my Think Like a Man review, this is the second comedy I've seen in two weeks where one of the characters is a chef and eventually opens his own food truck.  Why is this becoming so common in films now?  I can imagine the start-up costs for a food truck are much lower than opening a restaurant, but they are always super successful and have great food, when normally I don't associate food trucks with either.  It just seems like it's getting to be an overused profession and plot device when they aren't sure what they should do with a character.

Sure, I'm nit-picking a little, but that's my thing.

At it's heart, The Five-Year Engagement is still a consistently funny and sweet romantic comedy about how love and relationships are never perfect, but when you find the right one, you'll find a way to make it work.  While it ultimately doesn't stray too far from typical rom-com conventions and runs a little long, the strong supporting cast helps makes it very enjoyable to watch.  It's a really good date movie to check out this weekend.

4 (out of 5) Death Stars


  1. The film is definitely a little too long for it’s own good, but what it does work with is showing an impressive cast that is able to bring laughs out of this material, no matter what the tone is. Glad to also see Blunt and Segel have such great chemistry here too. Good review Erik.

  2. Thanks Dan! I think for most, this movie is going to come down to how much you can endure the length of the film and if the comedy works for you. I can see a lot of people thinking it's a bit of a mess.

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