Saturday 5 October 2019

Movie Review: The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

A romantic comedy about the compromises needed to bridge diverging aspirations, The Five-Year Engagement features a genial couple but is needlessly over-long.

On New Year's Eve in San Francisco, sous-chef Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) proposes marriage to his girlfriend and aspiring psychology teacher Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) exactly one year after they met. She accepts, but they delay setting a date. Meanwhile, his best friend Alex (Chris Pratt) and her sister Suzie (Alison Brie) meet at the engagement party and get married quickly after Suzie becomes pregnant on their first night together.

Violet accepts a two-year graduate position in Michigan, which means a major relocation and delays to the wedding plans. She quickly makes friends with her charming professor Winton (Rhys Ifans) and a tight-knit group of fellow graduate students. But Tom cannot find a good position as a chef and settles for preparing artisan sandwiches at a popular hangout. He starts resenting Violet's success, and when she is offered an extended stay at the university, the strain on their relationship reaches crisis levels.

Just because Tom and Violet's engagement stretches for five years is no excuse for the film to feel that long. Director Nicholas Stoller, working from a script he co-wrote with Segel, contrives to stretch proceedings over the two hour mark. For a relatively slight romantic comedy with the entire premise given away in the title, the bloat is galling.

But The Five-Year Engagement is a slick Judd Apatow production, and the quality shines through. Working in the film's favour is sharp humour, smart performances, lively chemistry and a cast deep in comic talent. Thanks to calibrated execution from Segel and Blunt, Tom, and Violet make for a believable couple, invested in caring for each other despite the deep potholes and uncertainties in their relationship.

In support, Chris Pratt and Alison Brie get plenty of screen time and offer some big laughs as the offbeat but perfectly compatible couple building a family at warp speed as Tom and Violet procrastinate for years. And in addition to Rhys Ifans as the potentially seductive Winton, the cast also includes David Paymer, Jacki Weaver, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, and Dakota Johnson.

The laughs come from numerous sources. As the wedding wait drags on, grandparents quietly expire. Violet and her classmates conceive of psychology tests involving donuts, with the results spilling over into her relationship with Tom. And while he waits out Violet's graduate studies in Michigan, Tom reverts to Mountain Man mode, complete with an ill-advised attachment to a crossbow. The Five-Year Engagement does go on forever, but also enjoys pointy edges.

All Ace Black Movie Blog Reviews are here.

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