Romantic comedies are seldom pulled off without at least a faint glimmer of cheesiness. Unfortunately, it’s something I have learned to expect out of these types of movies. So, when happening upon one of those rarities that is the exception to the rule, it is almost impossible not to propel yourself out of your theater seat with an immensely doofy grin and a strong sense of hope for the future of this genre. Such is what occurred to me after seeing The Five-Year Engagement.
I hate to be the person that amps up a movie, only to make you feel like you will be sold short upon seeing it; however, I really don’t think that’s possible, simply because the movie was that good. Everything from the directing to the chemistry was unfathomably good – but overall I would attribute the success of the movie to the impeccable writing. From the humor and the antics to the realness of the conversations and situations between characters, everything was exactly as it should have been.
The Five-Year Engagement covers exactly what the title says – the five-year long engagement of Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) and Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt). For anyone who has been in any kind of romantic relationship, the story of Tom and Violet holds true on many levels. The unexpected and unanticipated events that occur throughout everyone’s lives are often treated as unusual, when really, they are fairly common, and that is something that this movie pays special attention to. There isn’t any of the stereotypical fluff that comes with your typical Sandra Bullock or Hugh Grant romantic comedy – this stuff is pure, raw, and genuine, and it’s a game changer.
Tom’s successful career as a chef in San Francisco is put on hold, allowing Violet to pursue her dream career at the less-than-ideal location of the University of Michigan. This massive change comes mere months into the planning of their wedding, which is put on hold after the big move. While Violet flourishes in the psychology department at the university, Tom takes on the task of wedding planning; that is, until Violet is given the opportunity to extend her stay at the university. Tom’s resentment toward Violet slowly becomes more evident, as he feels as though he has put his entire life on hold so she can fulfill her dreams, while he works at the local delicatessen making sandwiches.
I can’t reveal much more of the plot without both being utterly confusing and giving the entire plot away, but essentially, the movie delves deeper into the problems both large and small that complicate human relationships. The themes that are covered are all-encompassing, and if they aren’t relatable, I would be incredibly surprised. Typical themes such as compromise and relationship guilt are addressed, but more interesting are the less-frequently addressed themes, such as relationship fallacies (like being made for each other, or being a 100% perfect match) or it being acceptable for the man in the relationship to express his feelings honestly.
Some of the best scenes in the movie cover these themes – everything from Jason Segel faking an orgasm (more hilarious than you can imagine) to Violet and her sister Susie (Alison Brie) talking about their adult problems in front of Susie’s young children while using Elmo and Cookie Monster voices, where we are given the sage advice of “C is for Condom” and that spending your whole life searching for the perfect cookie is stupid – just pick a cookie and eat it!
As I previously mentioned, I attribute most of this movie’s success to the incredibly witty and spot-on writing talents of screenplay writers Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. Segel‘s past successes (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Muppets) merely serve as a reminder of his incredible knack for feeling out what the audience is looking for, and once again, he delivers in a huge way.
Still, the acting talent in this movie aids largely in pulling off both the verbal and non-verbal forms of humor throughout the movie. There are many familiar faces in this movie – from former SNL cast members Chris Parnell and Molly Shannon to comedians Mindy Kaling and Kevin Hart. And, of course, the stars Segel and Blunt each deliver equally stunning performances. As I said in my review of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Emily Blunt is one of the best actresses of her time; she has such an effortless presence on screen, and her connection with both her co-stars and the audience is electric. Plus, I can’t get over her ridiculously adorable accent.
As someone who has seen pretty much every romantic comedy ever made, I can honestly say that The Five-Year Engagement ranks incredibly high on my list of movies I would gladly watch again and again. I would be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t enjoy this movie. It is full of great laughs, poignant topics, and a sense of sincerity – something that is a true refreshment in a tired, stale genre.
The Five-Year Engagement – 9/10