Be wary, future brides and grooms: As real and human as relationship problems are, this is one story you don’t want to see yourself in.
The fun and agony of wedding planning did not stop with Bridesmaids for Judd Apatow and his production team: Coming off the heels of last spring’s wildly successful and critically-acclaimed comedy is another raucous yet surprisingly raw ensemble piece about nuptials and all the stresses they bring in the form of The Five-Year Engagement. But aside from the Apatow namesake, the theme of making trips to the altar, and a special mixed formula of humor and soul, there are no more comparisons to be made. Despite some unevenness and underwhelming parts, The Five-Year Engagement shines on its own with its star power and its funny and sometimes sad take on what happens after the typical cinematic marriage proposal.
The Five-Year Engagement reunites director/writer/producer Nicholas Stoller with Jason Segel, who have worked with each other on fairly recent comedic gems Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. Set in modern-day San Francisco, Segel plays Tom, a talented sous chef who has proposed to his girlfriend for a year, Violet (Emily Blunt). As every newly engaged couple does, an ecstatic Tom and Violet share the news and celebrate with family and friends; however, a rejection for a postdoctoral assignment in UC Berkeley becomes an open door for an opportunity in the University of Michigan for Violet. Supporting Violet’s dreams and academic endeavors, Tom agrees to come with her, but soon realizes that he may not have a place in Ann Arbor. While Violet is living the life in extending her studies in psychology with her vivacious fellow grad students (Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, and Randall Park) and their faculty advisor Winton (Rhys Ifans), Tom is stacking deli sandwiches in Zingerman’s with Tarquin (Brian Posehn) and hunting with fellow “faculty spouse” Bill (Chris Parnell). Further adding salt to the wounds of being yet-to-be-married is Tom’s best friend Alex (Chris Pratt) and Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie), who got everything that their peers were supposed to have first—with each other. Two years of unhappiness becomes five, and Tom and Violet’s relationship is put to the ultimate test as one of them has their dreams come true at the expense of the other.
Some parts of the film that I don’t even remember would make you just want to fast-forward to scenes that actually matter, but The Five-Year Engagement is enjoyable and solid, and though likely unconventional in actual-to-life storyline, is an honest depiction at ups and downs couples face together. Segel and Blunt make a fun pair, but have the dramatic abilities to make their troubles believable. Both actors bring to life characters the audience can sympathize with, and not necessarily have to side with one over the other. In turn, they have an outstanding supporting cast who deserve their spotlight, and get it through such means as cattiness, ugly sweaters, Elmo impressions, and Brazilian love ballad singing. To add to the kooky cast of characters and stellar actors are Jacki Weaver, David Paymer, and Mimi Kennedy, who play parents of the mister and missus in waiting with spunk and wisdom. Other supporting actors worth noting are Dakota Johnson, who portrays a young and erratic co-worker of Tom and Alex’s, and Lauren Weedman, who appears as their supervisor and is the underrated source of some of the film’s best one-liners.
The film really packs in a lot in a story spanning over several years, and it’s a fairly detailed and intimate account of the fictional relationship and what’s going on with the people in their lives as well. The humor is crude yet somewhat tamed, but definitely as adult as all Apatow films possess. The San Francisco setting serves as a picturesque backdrop for all the festivities and for Tom’s culinary background (We San Franciscans love our food!). Beneath all the heartbreak and holdups, there is hope for the romance to take bloom, though truly, it is felt throughout. While not a groundbreaking romantic comedy by any means, the chemistry that Segel and Blunt share and the way the highest of highs unravel justify that there is “romantic” in the already-uproarious “comedy.”
With its extremely likable cast, an unstoppable production team, and terrifically handled story and script, The Five-Year Engagement is set to keep its audience engaged, but only for its much shorter running time of a couple of hours. It doesn’t matter if you yourself are engaged, married, dating, or single; this crowd-pleaser will tickle all funny bones and ultimately satisfy the fairy-tale believers in us, all while still keeping it real.
‘The Five-Year Engagement’ opens in theaters nationwide on April 27th.