The Five Year Engagement (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Five Year Engagement (2012)

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I always find it funny in romantic comedies when at the end of the film the people FINALLY get together after 90+ minutes of miscommunication, fights and obstacles getting in their way.  Are we really supposed to think the character will live “happily ever after” because they finally kissed when the movie just showed us that the smallest things can derail their relationship?

If these people have that much trouble getting together why should any sane person think that everything will work out when major issues such as money, jobs, kids, etc crop up.  This is one of the strengths of The Five Year Engagement, which finds its humor and plot from true problems and has a realistic look of how major issues can separate a couple that might have been perfect for one another.

Tom (Jason Segal) and Violet (Emily Blunt) meet cute on New Years Ever one year before the movie starts. By the time we catch up with them, them they both know they have found their perfect partner.  Since they are so happy, he proposes exactly a year after they first met and she joyously accepts.  Violet is excited to get married but wants everything to be perfect for their wedding so a date is never set in the beginning.

During their engagement period right when all the plans were starting to take shape, Violet gets a wonderful job opportunity in far away Michigan, and Violet and Tom postpone the nuptials so they can give her room to study for the next 2 years.  Although Tom is happy and excited to stand by Violet, he passes up his dream job as a head chef and moves from San Francisco to snowy and cold Michigan.

Yeah, that looks like winter in the midwest.

When they arrive the couples fortunes take divergent paths.  Violet excels at her dream job and makes friends quickly, while Tom can’t find a job close to what he wants to be doing and settles on being a sandwich maker.  In the funniest part of the movie, Tom becomes so insane that he grows the worst beard in the history of the cinema and someone ends up wearing a grungy beat up bunny costume.  Tom thinks he hits rock bottom but it only gets worse when the two-year study gets extended and once again their plans for a wedding get put to the side.  After a long time of resentment, stolen kisses, things not said, and a lost appendage, the couple has to decide if “close to perfect” is a good enough reason to stay together and weather the good times and the bad.

I have fast become a huge fan of Segal.  I have liked him since he was on "Freaks and Geeks" and believe he is the best part of "How I Met Your Mother", but his writing is where he really shines.  He wrote/starred in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which is an underappreciated gem in the Apatow canon of films, and he was the driving force in bringing the Muppets back to pop culture.

This film, much like Forgetting Sarah Marshall is more grounded than most romantic films usually are, which means it is not insulting the intelligence of the common moviegoer.  I find it so tiresome and cliché in films when the creator throws obstacles in the way of the couple getting together only because the formula dictates that the two characters cannot get together until the end.  Most of the problems/challenges keeping the two apart could be solved easily by taking a breath and talking to one another until they realize what they are fighting about is stupid.

The Five Year Engagement is a little different in the way that it tackles problems that can truly tear a couple apart.  Not being fulfilled work while the spouse is thriving, balancing about being selfish for yourself versus someone else’s happiness and how not talking only builds up resentment are all seen realistically in this film.

The two are great apart and together.

The biggest problem with The Five Year Engagement, though, is that it isn’t so much funny as enjoyable.  I did not laugh at the movie all that often and many of the big jokes are found in the trailer to the film.  The Five Year Engagement works mainly on its grounded approach and because all of the actors in the film from the two stars to the wonderful supporting cast that includes Allison Brie and Chris Platt.

Another problem the film has is it drags in the middle.  WAY too much time is taken up with Violet and her work group.  I love Mindy Kaling as much as the next guy but the movie was more about the two leads relationship and less about Violet’s work.  The six or seven scenes we got with this group could have been cut by half and the movie would not have lost anything.

The last small problem I had with the film was that it still followed the formula of a romantic comedy.  I knew that the end of act two they would break up and by the end of the film they would be back together for the happily ever after.  This could be seen as a spoiler but am I really spoiling something that follows the patterns of the genre to a T.  The Five Year Engagement might have worked really well in the formula but at the end of the day it was still trapped by the conventions of the genre and never tried to break out.

This film is being advertised as being from “the producer of Bridesmaids”  but don’t expect another film like that.  The Five Year Engagement is not quite as strong as that film and definitely not as funny.  The one main thing that the two films do have in common (as do most Judd Apatow produced films) is that the story and characters are never forgotten or used for a cheap joke.  With The Five Year Engagement, a person might not come out of the film laughing at all the jokes but they wouldn’t have minded the two hours they spent in the company of interesting characters dealing with real world problems.

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Posted by Ryan

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