Film Review: The Five-Year Engagement

Directed By Nicholas Stoller
Starring Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt and Alison Brie

A quick bit of film marketing insight to get us started:

When a heterosexual couple goes to the cinema on a date, the woman usually picks the film. When that same couple come to rent or buy a DVD, it will -more often than not- be the man’s choice – hence the existence of the date movie. But there is actually no reason whatsoever to go to the cinema any more, unless this particular couple actually find that the company of a sweaty, crisp-eating, mouth-breather improves their romantic evening. So, if the man is choosing the DVD, then the date-movie genre suddenly has to adapt to survive. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the romcom go undercover, cloaking itself in R-rated comedy. Suddenly, we have Bridesmaids suffering violent attacks of food poisoning and beautiful, headstrong women falling for Seth Rogen left, right and centre.

Actor Jason Segel and writer-director Nicholas Stoller have certainly capitalized on this new trend. They are slowly penetrating our hearts and minds with their unlikely and highly personal branch of super-producer Judd Apatow’s comedy empire. After meeting as writers on Undeclared (Stoller wrote all the Segel-Heavy episodes) and perfecting the man-cry, they brought us the grossly underrated Forgetting Sarah Marshall, jam-packed with beautiful and hilarious man-tears. After a couple of bumps in the road, they turned a corner this year with The Muppets and The Five-Year Engagement, a shamelessly romantic comedy that no one could possibly feel emasculated by renting.

Tom (Segel) has found the girl of his dreams, Violet (Blunt). They’ve only been together one year, but he knows that she is the woman he’s going to spend the rest of his life with. Careers come calling for each of them, but Tom ups-sticks, leaving the chance of a lifetime in San-Francisco so that Violet can pursue her academic career in small-town Michigan. As her new life burgeons, his grinds to halt and their dedication to one another is pushed to its limits.

This is Blunt’s third appearance in a Stoller/Segel movie and there is a surprising but undeniable chemistry between them. The opening proposal scene is heartwarming and hilarious and together, they tow the thin line between adorkable and unbearable with greater success than most. The real shining beacons of adorkability, however, are Violet’s sister (Brie) and Tom’s best friend (Pratt). Brought together by an accidental pregnancy, they make a perfect juxtaposition to the regimented ‘true love’ of the protagonists. Brie is reported to have listened to recordings of Emily Blunt reading her lines, in order to nail the English accent, which she does. The film is peppered with big intelligent laughs, mainly from these two, but Pratt’s on-screen presence alone will have you grinning from ear to ear.

Promising never to use the word adorkable ever again, this film does have something tonally in common with (500) Days of Summer. Both films offer a kind of cautionary tale, demonizing the independent woman. It seems as though Blunt’s character is punished for her selfishness, whereas Segel’s lack of backbone  – however accurate and well observed – is deemed completely acceptable. The Five-Year Engagement is, at its core, a genuinely touching story of eternal love, a concept that Segel and Stoller have been tackling since their days together on Undeclared. It’s not a classic, though. Some might say it’s too bold. No one could deny that it’s twenty minutes too long and overall there just seems to be that little something missing. These films seem to be running away with themselves and I can’t help feeling that this doesn’t bode well for This Is 40, coming later this year.


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