The Five-Year Engagement (Rated R) 4 Stars
Heading into his third film, Director Nicholas Stoller has one hit (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and one miss (Get Him to the Greek). The Five-Year Engagement (124 minutes) falls somewhere in between these two in overall quality. There are certainly more than a few laughs, but the film overall could have been trimmed down a bit. At more than two hours, this seems a bit indulgent — as if Stoller couldn’t bear to let anything go, whether it contributed to the film or not.
Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) works as a sous chef while living with Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) and dreaming of his own restaurant. They get engaged, and begin to have parties, as you do when you earn the kind of high dollar amounts typically enjoyed by sous chefs and graduate students. Oh wait — both of those people tend to live in poverty. I guess Mom and Dad are paying for everything. While they’re at it, maybe they should invest in some elocution lessons for Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie, who apparently didn’t get the memo that her “family” is British).
Anyway, the lovebirds manage to spend way more time planning their dream wedding than they spend actually getting married. You would think that a graduate student in the field of psychology would be able to get some insight from that, but apparently not. Despite her inability to apply basic psychology to address their personal issues, Violet is offered an apparently prestigious post-doc in psychology to the University of Michigan. As an academic, I question the logic of this particular plot device and the resulting lifestyle the two manage to share on the kind of salary a post-doc might expect to receive. Seriously, they should not be considering marriage when they are both clearly absorbing massive amounts of debt and will need to declare bankruptcy soon.
Embracing feminism, Tom decides to support Violet’s career by moving from lovely San Francisco to the frozen waste that is Michigan. Violet then spends the next two years demonstrating the overall invalidity of psychological studies in the company of other post-docs including Vanetha (Mindy Kaling).
Meanwhile, Tom begins a slow descent into depression, as evidenced by the growth of a stupid looking beard and the increasing number of scenes that show him in sweatpants. Because, of course, his fiancée is going to ignore his completely passive aggressive reaction to her achievement of a major academic milestone and stay with him despite the fact that she gets nothing from the relationship but a guilt trip. If only he had some career goal or hard-earned skill to fall back on, like that dream of owning his own restaurant he was talking about earlier in the film? No? We’re going to pretend that’s not where the story is obviously headed.
For some reason, even after the writers have established the basic conflict the movie wanders on through scene after scene, only to climax in a completely ridiculous resolution. Oh well. At least there are plenty of Van Morrison songs to enjoy while daydreaming through some of the longer scenes. As a bonus, we get to witness the next phase in the ongoing quest of Segel to turn into a complete and utter girl. This is a nice switch from most male-driven comedies, but it does tend to make him interchangeable with Paul Rudd. Perhaps he could play against type in his next Apatow flick? Or at least try to find a character that’s not quite so self-loathing?
Overall, it’s an enjoyable rom-com to see on date night but most of this material has been explored in other, more interesting films. If you’re hoping for another Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you’re apt to be disappointed.
Now showing at Wynnsong 7, Carmike 12 and Carmike Market Fair 15.