THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT – The Review
Judd Apatow (BRIDESMAIDS) has become synonymous with successful modern comedy, much like Martin Scorsese is to gangsters and Steven Spielberg is to aliens, or James Cameron and his endless obsession with the Titanic. ANCHORMAN, 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN, KNOCKED UP, SUPERBAD, STEP BROTHERS… the list goes on with only a very small handful of flops. (i.e. – YEAR ONE, and the less severe failure of FUNNY PEOPLE) As a producer, he has helped redefine funny, but I’m not all that interested in talking about Judd Apatow right now.
No, in all fairness, I give credit to Jason Segel (BAD TEACHER) and director Nicholas Stoller (FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL) this time around. Segel and Stoller co-wrote THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT, their follow-up project to THE MUPPETS, which also had Segel and Stoller in the same acting, writing and directing roles and showed audiences they are a force to reckon with in the coming years of comedy. Jason Segel stars in THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT as Tom Solomon, a talented sous-chef in San Fransisco on track to one day realize his dream of running his own restaurant.
Emily Blunt (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA) co-stars as Tom’s British girlfriend Violet Barnes, to whom he proposes imperfectly amidst awkwardness in the opening moments of the film, setting the tone of the journey that has just begun for these two lovably flawed characters. Violet is pursuing a post-doctorate path in psychology with hopes of landing a tenured career as a collegiate professor, but her dreams are proving elusive… until her luck changes. Unfortunately, this change in Violet and Tom’s lives means entirely different and polar opposite things for the couple deemed “perfect for each other” by family and friends.
THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT is ballsy for a comedy, with it’s 124-minute running time, but the time flies and the film never drags. As I watched, I became quickly become attached, no… emotionally invested in these two wonderfully detailed human beings. Segel and Blunt have a smile-inducing, naturally pleasant chemistry that makes it damn near impossible not to feel all warm and fuzzy inside and it breaks my heart whenever things don’t go as planned. THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT is a humorous, witty alternative to the sappy, fake soap operas that finds truth in it’s self-deprecating realism.
This is a situational comedy at it’s finest. THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT is the feature length yin to television’s MARRIED WITH CHILDREN yang. Where Al and Peggy Bundy make us smile in their shared misery and pessimism with each other, Tom and Violet make us smile with their mutual cuteness and optimism, and those are the stakes. This is a film for the realistic romantic at heart, not the pipe dreamers who naively think everything can be peachy and perfect forever. THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT delivers a slice of real life, enhanced for laughter, but reminds us that while our plans rarely ever go as we’d hoped, even when everything falls apart, there’s always still some glimmer of hope if we really want it bad enough… why?
Because, damn it, for better or worse, life is what we make of it and that’s the journey that Tom and Violet take us on in THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT. Lovers, sweethearts, parents, couples, however you define yourselves, there’s plenty to enjoy and take away from this film. The supporting cast certainly adds to this broad appeal. Chris Pratt (PARKS AND RECREATION) plays Tom’s best friend and fellow sous chef Alex, a somewhat moronic, impulsively immature man. Alison Brie (COMMUNITY) plays Violet’s stuck up, selfish sister with theoretical high standards. These two popular TV stars bring a much appreciated depth of comedic charisma to the film, both of whom are sort of like the worst-case scenario versions of Tom and Violet from a parallel dimension. Curiously enough, these two lost causes ultimately play a crucial role in what will become of Tom and Violet.
As always, the list of appearances in THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT holds true to past Judd Apatow films, including David Paymer and Mimi Kennedy as Tom’s parents, Kevin Hart, Molly Shannon, Brian Posehn, and Rhys Ifans as the head of Violet’s department of psychology. THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT works so well, not just because of the writing and shear comedic talent of the cast, but also because the circumstances are real, even if the situations are often just within the borders of awkwardly absurd. What Jason Segel does so well is he combines his faintly child-like persona with a sort of everyman philosopher of life.
THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT begins in San Fransisco, but spends much of it’s time in a colder, less visually appealing locale, adding to the building tension and looming fear of self-destruction. The creative team of Segel and Stoller capture several contemporary cultural details that add greatly to the relevance of the film’s story, but they do so in such a brilliant tongue-in-cheek manor that produces laughs without losing it’s true-to-life edge. I especially enjoyed the ending of the film, which I can only say instantly led to my conjuring up the newest addition to the reality television game shows… see if you don’t envision the same.