Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are some of the finest, quirkiest, and charismatic actors working in the movies today. Whether it’s Segel in the latest Duplass brother’s film Jeff, Who Lives At Home, or Blunt in the quiet, likely unseen romance Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, these two young, nuanced, soon to be stars, each represent diamonds in the rough that is mainstream filmmaking.
This is precisely why The Five-Year Engagement is such a let down: with a consistently tired script filled with redundant, often unfunny humor and lacking any sort of natural rhythm, both immensely talented performers take a backseat to dull slapstick comedy and grating pacing.
What’s not to be criticized, however, is the chemistry between our two protagonists, Tom (Segel) and Violet (Blunt). Tom is head chef at a high-end restaurant in San Francisco, and Violet is waiting to be accepted into the Social science program at the University of Michigan.
As the film opens Tom proposes to Violet. She enthusiastically says yes. They’re in love. But before the wedding can be planned, an acceptance letter arrives in the mail for Violet.
Being the warm and understanding guy he is Tom agrees to relocate to Michigan, giving up both his fantastic job and friends, for the sake of his hopeful wife to fulfill her academic dreams. Problems arise, as one may expect (who the hell moves from San Francisco to Michigan?). Still, the idealistic couple believes in the notion that love will prevail and conquer all problems.
Nicholas Stoller, in now his third directorial feature, tells the simple story of two people falling in and out of love. In The Five-Year Engagement we see romance form, dwindle, and then rekindle again. Tom and Violet, as most of us do, have their highs and lows. The film asks if loving someone passionately is enough to work through life altering complications?
While The Five Year Engagement may be more sentimental and romantic than Stoller’s past efforts (the cute, funny Forgetting Sarah Marshall or the wacky low-brow raunch fest Get Him To The Greek), it’s also his least effective.
There’s no questioning the intimacy between Tom and Violet. But the film drags our likable protagonists through so much ineptly staged, utterly contrived sequences, that so many of the moments worth caring for get lost in the shuffle of amateur screenwriting.
For example, each character has their bout with another person, each character inexplicably misunderstands each other, each character goes through an identity crisis, and each character fails to appreciate what they have in front of them. This is just another frustrating trademark of Hollywood cinema: having smart characters perform or say, utterly idiotic things.
Albeit all the flaws, The Five-Year Engagement isn’t worthless, it’s just not worth watching. It stoops its intellect to crass, cheap humor that consistently underwhelms (every time a character mentions death, the film cuts to a funeral where an elderly grandmother or grandfather has died), and places our adoring leads in dull situations.
In short, The Five-Year Engagement takes a whole lot of time to get to where it’s going, and when we finally arrive, it’s not nearly worth the build up.
And no one enjoys an anticlimax: especially in romance.
2 out 4 stars
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