The new romantic-comedy and Jason Segel vehicle "The Five-Year Engagement" plays much better on its "comedic" notes than on the "romance" side of the relationship.
Even the comedic material takes a while to really kick-in, but once it does, this is a satisfying and humorously realistic look at the meaning of long-term commitments and accompanying difficulties.
Films of this genre, including this movie, typically have the same basic premise; boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl separate due to misunderstandings then reunite for a happy ending. What separates "The Five-Year Engagement" from the pack is its shrewd portrayal of the real-life apathy that can surface after being with the same person day-to-day over a long period of time.
The film starts with Jason Segel ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall"), as Tom Solomon, committing to be married to his girlfriend Violet, played by Emily Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada").The wedding plans keep getting postponed over the course of five years as Tom follows Violet’s career pursuits and willingly takes a back seat as she fulfills her professional dreams.
The movie starts in San Francisco, but I loved the fact that the story moves to Michigan early on when Violet accepts a position at the state’s university. We always see romantic films set in San Francisco, New York City or even Seattle, so it was a fun to see “The Great Lakes State” get some long-deserved cinematic attention. Although it’s debatable as to how lovingly the state is portrayed. Nevertheless, it was a nice change of pace and the locales and lifestyles of the MI location made for some hilarious bits.
The supporting cast includes Chris Pratt ("Moneyball") in a funny but often obnoxious role as Tom’s best friend, and Alison Brie ("Mad Men") as Violet’s sister Suzie, who is alone at her sister’s engagement party but ends up married and with kids long before Violet considers fulfilling her commitment. There is a hilarious scene with the two sisters taking on the personas of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster and Elmo while fighting about their futures in front of Suzie’s kids.
While this is a smart film, much of the humor in this movie is of an adult nature and crude. There is plenty of “rear-end” nudity of Segel, which is becoming somewhat of a trademark for him. As a straight guy, I don’t ‘get’ the humor or the attraction, but I do think it’s fascinating that female nudity in films is typically played for sex and male nudity is usually used for laughs. Come on ladies, it’s not that funny!
The film also manages to laugh at itself with playful jabs at the Tom Hanks’ romantic-comedies that preceded it. Jason Segel certainly has the skills to become a star of Hanks’ caliber, albeit much edgier. Earlier this year he starred in one of the year’s best films to date, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," which also blends comedy and drama in an authentic real-world way.
"The Five-Year Engagement" is slow getting started and did not really become very engaging until about 30-minutes into its story. Once the setting changes locations, the Michigander locals and the University of Michigan psychology department characters steal the show. Segel, who co-wrote this witty film with director Nicholas Stoller (also of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall") does a great and genuine job as the everyman who gives up his soul for the love of his life, and Emily Blunt if fine as his fiancé, but I never felt any real chemistry between these two, leaving mostly the comedy to carry this film.