FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT, THE
They meet on New Year's Eve at a Superhero themed party in San Fransisco, and a year later talented chef Tom (Jason Segel) proposes to aspiring social psychology academic Violet (Emily Blunt). The wedding date is set, but they're ambushed by an offer of a desirable postdoctoral assignment at Michigan University for Violet. They put the wedding on hold - for two years. She thrives under the brilliant faculty advisor Winton (Rhys Ifans) and he makes do making sandwiches at Zingerman's deli. When her two-year term is extended, Tom and Violet are faced with tough choices about a wedding that seems elusive. And things get complicated, the wedding is postponed ... or maybe it won't happen at all.
Review by Louise Keller:
The incongruous, the ridiculous and the romantic combine to deliver a charming comedy of errors in which love takes first prize. While the central relationship between the seemingly perfectly matched couple is the film's main focus, the threading of a bunch of unruly, unpredictable characters into the narrative's main seam brings delightful textures and variances.
For writer and director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), this third collaboration with producer Judd Apatow also stars Jason Segel, and uses characters and situations to discover the comedy. As a result, the humour is spontaneous, reflecting real life situations with their awkward pauses and often less than ideal outcomes. Life, after all, isn't written by a Hollywood scriptwriter.
It is at a New Year's Eve Super Hero party when Tom Solomon (Jason Segel), dressed in a baby pink super bunny suit and Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) with blond wig and tiara, as Princess Di, lock eyes across a crowded room. Romance ignites as do the fireworks when they kiss, but one year later, when the carefully planned romantic proposal is in train, nothing goes to plan. Nor does anything go to plan for the next five years, after their engagement.
Not suffice that Violet's sister Alison (Suzie Barnes-Eilhauer) and Tom's chef colleague Alex (Chris Pratt) pip them at the post to the altar in an ultra romantic ceremony after a torrid night at the Drunken Pig, the engagement party venue, but they steal their thunder as they usurp the perfect plans to which Tom and Violet aspire. All with the hilarity of truth and the pain that we recognise only too well.
When Tom and Violet both have the opportunity to realise their dreams, she in the field of psychology and he as the newly promoted head chef, only one of them can have their wish. Goodbye San Francisco and the restaurant promotion; Hello Michigan and University where Violet indulges her dreams, believing she has earned the right to be selfish. With stale and fresh donuts being the measuring tool used in Violet's psychology experiments to gauge emotional deficiencies, it seems that their life is epitomised by the pastry with the hole. But not in a good way; Tom struggles to find a job and has to suffice with making sandwiches, passing the time wearing nerdy hand knits created by the partner of another graduate.
There's recognisable angst and hilarity in equal parts as the perfect life of the perfect couple becomes less than perfect. Violet thrives in her new lifestyle and her professor (Rhys Ifans) is clearly smitten by her. Both sides of the family get involved, concerned at the delays and Jackie Weaver (who plays Violet's mother), delivers a bombshell about mortality: the result is black and beautifully executed. Throwaway lines come and go (I like the one - in relation to the heat in the kitchen - depicting the reason why there is conflict in the Middle East).
A fake orgasm, an unexpected kiss and a smothering with potato salad and hot pepper sauce are some of the colourful adornments along the way and ironically, it is with the help of the exaggerated voices of Elmo and the Cookie Monster that the most important home truths are articulated.
If there's a moral in this constantly evolving, instantly likeable and funny rom-com with a sense of the absurd, it is the one about The Best Laid Plans. Just goes to show, spontaneity is worth bottling.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
No two people are 100% right for each other, even those happily married for years. And you should grab that donut from yesterday's tray not live in hope for a fresh tray tomorrow - it may never come. Those are the key lessons from The Five Year Engagement, which turns wisecracks into little gems of wisdom as it rummages through the relationship cupboard of our protagonists with a smile.
There is a lot to rummage through, from the stress of hard fought careers conflicting with hard won relationships and the failings of human nature.
Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) fall in love and get engaged; but her career in academia shunts them off their wedding course and the longer they tread water, the worse things get.
It's just as well the film is cast in iron because it takes us on a long and cobbled journey; of all the cast, Emily Blunt has the biggest job as Violet and it's an inspired choice. Her Englishness not only adds texture but a refreshing individuality that might have been missing with an actress from the American culture. She also has the most watchable and expressive face.
Jason Segel's talents continue to impress, both as the well meaning but indecisive Tom and as co-writer with director Nicholas Stoller.
Aussie Jackie Weaver has a supporting role as Violet's mother Sylvia, now divorced from Violet's dad, and she gives the character a complexity to match the film's intentions.
Other notable characters include Chris Pratt as Tom's fellow chef Alex, a rough diamond character whose journey forms an important subplot, the flip side of Tom's journey. The construction of this subplot is so neatly done it sneaks up on us, starting with a small, comical scene at the wedding rehearsal dinner, where Violet's sister Suzie (Alison Brie) meets Alex. Mimi Kennedy is wonderful as the sardonic tough cookie, the uberchef at the restaurant where Tom and Alex work.
It's to the film's credit that it's Violet's academic career that is at the centre of the conflict that drives the drama grounding the film. It's a serious and universal issue, but rom coms usually play it off the guy and his job.
Although the film meanders and sags occasionally, it is cleverly written and edited with a rhythm that keeps us engaged (as it were). Seriously funny and humorously serious, laughs and the odd squirm (to remind us of producer Judd Apatow's signature elements) provide plenty of entertainment - even if some of the laughter catches in the back of the throat.
It has something to say, reminding us to seize the day - especially in love.
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FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT, THE (MA15+)
CAST: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Nicholas Stoller, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Kevin Hart, Chris Pratt, Chris Parnell, Mimi Kennedy, Dakota Johnson, Mindy Kaling, Adam Campbell
PRODUCER: Judd Apatow, Rodney Rothman, Nicholas Stoller
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Stoller
SCRIPT: Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Javier Aguirresarobe
EDITOR: William Kerr, Peck Prior
MUSIC: Michael Andrews
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Julie Berghoff
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 3, 2012