The Five-Year Engagement is one of those films that you start out enjoying because the prospect of a fresh take on a tired topic is enticing, but ultimately the payoff just doesn’t quite meet the expectation.
Jason Segel is Tom Solomon, a chef on the verge of running his own restaurant in San Francisco, who finds his plans altered when his fiance Violet (Emily Blunt) gets a Psychology post-doc job offer at Michigan State. In a reversal of a once expected burden of womanhood, Tom lovingly decides to leave his lucrative job in the trendiest of food cities, and go forth to the cold barren wasteland of Michigan. As the title suggests, what was only supposed to be a one year commitment, turns into, well, five.
I liked this film’s attempt at not necessary flipping gender roles, but exploring the inherent selfishness that comes with doing what’s best for your career at the expense of your significant other. There are some great moments and some great conversations between Violet and Tom as they make some painful choices, but ultimately the film decides it would rather depend on cliches to end the story in a manner that may be more comfortable and familiar for audiences to handle.
The film was written by Apatow alums Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, who previously collaborated on Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Muppets. While I admire Segel’s obvious talent, like many comedies from the Apatow school, this film badly needed a more impartial editor. Many sequences go on longer than they should, and this amplifies the feeling that the film is a series of comedy sketches based on one couple’s life. Unfortunately, film lacks the benefit of a live audience barometer to tell the actors when they should move it along. In turn, the pacing of the film is quite lethargic. There was just enough comedy to keep me interested, but not enough to keep me from wondering how long this ride would last.
Segel plays his usual adorable self, and his chemistry with real-life buddy Emily Blunt is more palpable than your average romantic comedy pairing. However, the real standouts for me were Chris Pratt and Alison Brie, who play Tom’s friend Alex and Violet’s sister Suzie. They hook up at the engagement party, and end up having the life that Tom wanted for himself. Pratt and Brie are two of my favorite TV sitcom stars right now, and seeing them paired on screen together was better than I could of imagined. Honestly, I was much more invested in their story than that of the leads.
I had fun watching The Five-Year Engagement, but it lacks the taut storyline of better comedies. Maybe the meandering pace is apropos of the premise, but there is a good half hour of this film that should have been a bonus feature on the DVD.
The Five-Year Engagement opens today in Philly-area theaters.