Lowdown: A couple’s engagement drags on as the guy sacrifices his career in favour of the gal’s.
Jason Segel comedies do have the tendency to be tediously silly, but some of them also pack a punch – take Forgetting Sarah Marshall as a fine example. As it happens, The Five-Year Engagement belongs to the latter. Not only that, but in addition to Segel it stars Emily Blunt, a long time favourite of this blog.
The premises are simple. A short flashback tells us how the promising would-be-chef Tom (Segel) and student Violet (Blunt) met and fell in love at San Francisco. Now, a year later, they decide they want to get married – cool, even if Violet’s sister and Tom’s best friend (a Chris Pratt that often steals the show) decide to do the same, not long after, on account of them getting pregnant.
Alas, life happens. Or, in our couple’s case, Violet gets a job offer she cannot resist from a Michigan university. Our loving Tom is perfectly happy to put his culinary ambitions on hold for a year so that Violet’s career can take off. Alas, once they actually get to Michigan, reality hits: Michigan really sucks (as in, the movie does not do the state any favours); and besides, what was supposed to take a year drags on and on. And on.
There is a price to pay. Tom deteriorates on all accounts while, in parallel, Violet flourishes and love wanes. In contrast, Pratt’s character now runs his own restaurant despite being the lesser chef, and with Violet’s sister that couple seems to have a lovely family + kids going for them.
If you read between the lines, you would see The Five-Year Engagement goes the opposite of conventional wisdom. We tend to take it for granted that, in a relationship, it’s the guy’s career that’s matters and the woman is there to look after the kids (as per Pratt/sister’s case). However, our movie tells the opposite story, with the ups and downs that come along. And for that it should be praised!
Not to mention the fine, non politically correct comedy it offers along the way. The Five-Year Engagement may be two hours long, but it never feels long (excuse the pan). Some scenes, such as Pratt’s engagement party song (based on Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire) got me laughing so badly I was crying.
Ultimately, The Five-Year Engagement is an allegorical story on the realities of love and relationships. Not every day can be fireworks; the heights of passion that are there at the beginning do not last, and no one is perfect. Most of us are, by definition, average. In my book, packing such a message in a funny comedy is quite an achievement.
Best scene: Violet and her sister hold a serious discussion on the state of Violet’s relationship with Tom. Only that, because the discussion takes place in front of little kids, it is held Sesame Street style. It’s funny how such a serious and pretty deep conversation can take place in such a way, but the result is testimony to the qualities of Blunt as an actress.
Overall: A fine comedy with a punch that fully deserves 4 out of 5 crabs.