The Five-Year Engagement
Ah, Nicholas Stoller. Why must you hide your deep, abiding melancholy beneath such a brittle shell of jollity? The Five-Year Engagement is a film about a couple who get engaged with the best intentions and then gradually drift apart due to a combination of festering resentment and radically differing interests. It’s entertaining enough – it’s even a bit funny – but you probably should have just written a poem and then cried onto it, Nick. At least that wouldn’t have taken TWO HOURS.
In San Francisco, up-and-coming chef Tom (Segel) and psychology Ph.D Violet (Blunt) have just got engaged in a preposterously complicated fashion involving incredibly poor acting, shameless flashbacking and an iPod. Awww. However, before they can get round to tying the knot Tom’s best man Alex (Pratt) and Violet’s sister Suzie (Brie) have a lovely shag at their (awful) engagement party and end up expecting. Alex and Suzie zip down the aisle in double-quick time, and Tom and Violet’s thunder is well and truly stolen – for now, at least. Surely they’ll have plenty more opportunities to get married before, eg, all Violet’s grandparents die? THAT’S WHERE YOU’RE WRONG! Apparently.
Before you can say “Christ, this needs a plot twist”, Violet is invited to begin post-doctoral studies at the University of Michigan. That’s the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, about thirty miles from Canada. It’s quite a long way away from Frisco, and it’s quite cold. Tom, bless him, immediately suggests that he and Violet prolong their engagement so she doesn’t have to pass up the opportunity (it’s never clear why they can’t marry before they leave for Michigan or, indeed, why they can’t marry while they’re there). The point is that Michigan’s crap if you’re a chef – Tom ends up working in a sandwich shop, getting really into shooting animals and growing a beard, while Violet makes up some bollocks experiment about doughnuts and repeatedly almost boffs her professor Winton (Rhys Ifans – seriously, guys, Winton?). Tell you what, I bet they’re going to grow apart and find it increasingly hard to maintain their once-loving relationship…
Please don’t interpret the last two paragraphs as meaning that I think this is a dreadful film, because I honestly don’t. I just don’t think it’s a romantic comedy, which is categorically what, oh gosh, its ENTIRE FUCKING AUDIENCE will be expecting it to be. The Five-Year Engagement is an occasionally-harrowing romantic drama with comic splashes, most of them in the form of slapstick (Jason Segel falls over a car, Emily Blunt gets shot with a crossbow, Rhys Ifans does some completely unexpected parkour, &c) or substantially sub-Woody Allen snark (“This is supposed to be exciting. It’s your wedding – you only get a few of these!”). The problem is that there’s either not quite enough or far, far too much – it’s too light-hearted to be a ‘proper’ film but not nearly funny enough to be a comedy.
That said, the principal cast does a perfectly good job of wrestling with their slightly oddly written roles. Jason Segel plays that good-hearted bumbling idiot that he always plays – this time with added dead deer! – and Emily Blunt basically swears her entire part with a truly unexpected series of fuckety-fuck-fuck salvoes, but the pair manage to conjure a genuinely believable chemistry which waxes and wanes organically throughout the film. Pratt and Brie rise above the twin challenges of their names to inject a little extra life into the creakier scenes, and Rhys Ifans is as irritatingly sensitive a psychology professor as the silver screen has ever seen. Also, Mindy Kaling is in it and I like Mindy Kaling. Can’t remember anything about her character other than me repeatedly saying “OOH, I LIKE MINDY KALING” every time she was onscreen, but them’s the breaks.
Inoffensive but never more than average, The Five-Year Engagement fits adequately into the recent trend of ‘edgy’ rom-coms which are substantially less good than the viewing public, slavering and desperate as ever for even the most contrived of happy endings, believes them to be. It’ll do if you have a spare TWO HOURS MY GOD WHO MAKES A TWO-HOUR ROM-COM to spare, but you’d be better off making your mind up to see either a romance or a comedy – this sadly well-intentioned film never really manages to be either.