Director Nicholas Stoller and constant acting companion Jason Segal have turned in hilarious work in the past. Stoller himself has seemed to rewrite the book on romance with Forgetting Sarah Marshal. This makes it sadder to say that his latest effort, The Five Year Engagement, is a dud. It’s clunky, overly long, and tells the story of two characters that had they really loved each other, could have gotten married in ten minutes. Instead the movie flounders in showing two people force themselves to fall in love again.
Tom and Violet (Jason Segal and Emily Blunt) are in love and decide to get engaged. Unfortunately, Violet gets offered a doctorate program in Michigan and Tom moves with her. Throughout the next five years the two try to find the time to get married before starting to question whether they’re truly meant to be together.
For all the numerous flaws of the film, the movie tries to create a realistic depiction of a relationship. The advertising leads one to believe these two are racing towards a wedding when that’s not the case. Instead, Tom and Violet have to struggle to determine whether careers, education, and life outside of their relationship is more important. As the years go on it starts to seem like the two are just putting off what neither wants. Both Segal and Blunt have a strong chemistry and do well together, comparable to Amy Adams and Segal in The Muppets. When the two are together and focused on their relationship the movie thrives.
Segal has perfected the everyman routine and delivers what’s expected of him with this movie. He’s personable, humorous, and sweet with Blunt. Blunt seemed to be the most interesting as we’ve never seen her play a serious female comedienne. I wouldn’t recommend she enter comedy wholeheartedly, she doesn’t have the effervescence of Amy Adams, but she’s great at the self-deprecating humor and does well mixing the comedy with the drama. The true standouts are Chris Pratt and Allison Brie as Tom’s friend Alex and Violet’s sister Suzie respectively. In many ways I wished the film was about these two as they have a more varied and interesting story. The two have a one-night stand which results in a child and a marriage. The story’s been done but the way the two characters work, especially in contrast to the failing relationship of the main couple, I wanted to see their story told. Other cameos from Jackie Weaver and David Paymer are strong as the parents but too little screen time.
Aside from the misleading title the movie suffers from the same problems as many recent romance/dramas in that the film takes too long to get to the point we’ve seen within the first five minutes. The audience knows this couple will end up together in the end, so why waste over two hours of all sorts of side things just to have them end up as expected? The majority of the films strongest laughs are in the numerous trailers and don’t play out as well in conjunction with all the other elements going on. There are far too many players in the film from the husbands of the other grad students that Tom becomes friends with, to more than a few girls that Segal gets hit on by. The script, written by Segal and Nicholas Stoller, also seems confused in how to treat Violet. She’s seen as mean for wanting to further her education is placed in the position of being the “adulteress,” and yet I never felt she was in the wrong. Maybe that’s a gender perspective but having every woman throw themselves at Segal’s character it seemed like one big technique to make the audience feel sorry for Tom.
As mentioned above, the biggest problem is if Tom and Violet truly wanted to get married, a quickie wedding is always presented. Heck, Alex and Suzie do this and their story moves at a quicker pace than Tom and Violet’s. The Five Year Engagement starts to feel as long as the title. It’s a rental at best.