More like a five year long movie. Funny, but not the kind that makes your sides hurt. Romantic, but not the kind that wills you to see the protagonists to a happy ever after. Thought-provoking, but not the kind that sets your synapses alight. Goofy, well yes most of the characters were just that!
Perhaps the cliche “jack of all trades…” is fitting. It is. In trying to do a little bit of everything, this movie does a whole lot of nothing. The essence of The Five-Year Engagement in starting where most movies leave off could have been explosive. Instead it just fizzled.
Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) is a sous-chef in a top restaurant in San Francisco. He met his girlfriend Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) at a fancy dress New Years Eve party dressed as a giant pink bunny and she as a pretty good Princess Diana (well the doe eyes worked!). One year on, to the exact day they met and he’s ready to propose. They are just “right for each other”, they just “fit” and they just “get each other”. She loves the non-traditional engagement ring, wants to marry him and can’t wait to be his wife. The melodic music at this point allures you into a sense of happy ever after. Well, after 123 minutes, you will definitely know that happy ever after doesn’t come easy. Life, as it has a habit of doing, starts to get in the way.
Violet as an aspiring academic gets an offer to join a psychology program in Michigan for two years; far away from the beautiful sunny bay area. Tom as a supportive and loyal partner assures her that she should take the opportunity and he will follow wherever she may go. So far, so good. This is a good point in the movie because it gets you thinking about what you would do in the same situation and the emotional and psychological pressure that is placed on an individual in that position. But it’s all so contrived that the philosophical edge goes blunt rather quickly. By the time the tenure is extended, Violet has formed somewhat of a close bond with her mentor, Winton (played by Rhys Ifans, seemingly playing himself) and Tom’s emasculation is evident. With being reduced to working in the best sandwich shop in town, Tom finds himself lost, slowly losing the plot (as does the movie) and looking scarily like Chewbacca.
So ensues a set of incidents to highlight Tom’s frustrations. The humour relies heavily on sex jokes; OK it did make me laugh, giggle and gag (a little) but there was nothing new or clever about it – “A very popular flower is the white peony. I’ve heard that black peonies are actually much bigger”.
There’s something quite endearing (in a BFG kind of way) about Jason Segel but it just seems like he’s playing the same character whereever he goes and helping to write scripts that don’t require much from his co-stars either. Could Tom Solomon have been replaced with Marshall Eriksen (How I Met Your Mother) or Peter Bretter (Forgetting Sarah Marshall)? Was Violet intentionally British so that Emily Blunt could play her? If so, why was she British? It didn’t seem to have much significance and I subsequently spent most of the movie trying to figure out how both Violet and her sister Suzie (Alison Brie) ended up in the US, why their parents were in the UK and constantly noticing the twang in Suzie’s speech. It just goes to show how all the insignificant additions to the script can distract from the core. Even with a Van Morrison soundtrack (well largely) to aid tuning into the passion and pathos, I couldn’t shake the apathy.
I’m also beginning to wonder if Jason Segel co-writes movies just so he can bare his bits. Am I allowed to say gross?! I just hope that he and Nicholas Stoller try something different next time as I think it would be a real shame if they are stigmatised with lacklustre rom-coms.
The Five-Year Engagement is in cinemas 22nd June 2012.
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Stars: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt
Runtime: 124 min