He sees her from across the room and his heartbeat quickens. He is a superhero bunny and she is Princess Diana. From their first glance they know they are destined to be together. They move toward each other and made awkward small talk; the kind of small talk that fills lovers of sappy romantic comedies with tingling joy. But then, you’re feeling all gooey inside as well? What is this sorcery, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt? How dare you use such convincing chemistry to sucker us into your make-believe love story! For shame! For entertaining and heart-warming shame!
Tom (Segel), a sous chef on the verge of a managerial promotion, and Violet (Blunt), a psychology graduate attempting to embark on her post-doctorate studies, are in a still-blossoming relationship that couldn’t be better after a clumsy but romantic marriage proposal. When Violet is offered a doctorate position in Michigan the pair uproot and postpone the wedding until they are happily settled once more. However, the move stunts Tom’s career and turns him into a begrudging househusband while Violet’s life becomes better every day. The Five Year Engagement then begins to explore identifiable relationship distresses, looking at outsiders’ opinions as well as the pair’s own as we watch Tom and Violet’s relationship fall slowly to pieces.
In a recent interview Jason Segel revealed that every time an actor is chosen for a part in a film he penned he goes back and rewrites the film completely (or any scene the character impacts, at least) to allow any actor to excel in their role. This method is certainly evident in The Five Year Engagement as just about every character, big or small, is wholly fleshed out and has a justified presence in the film. From the neighbourhood friend or begrudging mother to the old boss who appears in two scenes, everyone has a part in the film’s humour and overall impact. Particularly shining is Alison Brie as Violet’s overly dramatic sister, Suzie who steals every scene she appears in (in addition to having a more believable English accent than Emily Blunt herself) and definitely deserves a spin-off/sequel akin to Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s Get Him To The Greek or the upcoming This Is Forty (following side characters of The 40 Year Old Virgin).
Of course, fleshing out every character not only takes attention away from the film’s key figures (you will more than once wish that we were watching the story of some of the bench characters) but also lengthens the film by a pointlessly excessive amount. Whilst The Five Year Engagement stands at 125 minutes long, its primary plot should only last 80 minutes at best. We’re just lucky that Segel and the film’s director, Nicholas Stoller (dir. Forgetting Sarah Marshall) are talented enough to keep us somewhat absorbed through the numerous sketch show-like scenes that fill in the time between the actual plot.
The Five Year Engagement is one of those rare mainstream romantic comedies that has as much feeling as it does Hollywood fluff and is better for it. Although stretching it for time in terms of story, the varied likes of character’s pig fetishes, stale doughnut metaphors, and househusband knitting skills will keep you highly entertained. A definite Orange Wednesday occasion with your partner.*
*If you don’t have a partner it’s still hilarious to watch a relationship fall apart, no?
If anything, it is even more satisfying – Tim (single, not remotely bitter)