Review of The Five-Year Engagement


Movie Review: "The Five-Year Engagement"

--Rating: R (language, sexual content)
Length: 124 minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2012
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Genre: Comedy/Romance

On the surface, Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) and Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) seem to be the perfect couple. They get along well, are madly in love and are both well adjusted. They met at a New Year's Eve costume party, he wearing a pink bunny costume and she dressed as Princess Diana. Exactly one year after they meet, Tom proposes to Violet, who happily accepts.

For most romantic comedies, the engagement is where the story ends. For Tom and Violet, the engagement is only the beginning of the story. As the movie's title suggests, the two have an unexpectedly long engagement. After the proposal, they set an initial date for the wedding, but there would be no story if the wedding happened as planned.

Violet suddenly gets an offer from the University of Michigan to do a postdoctoral research study for two years. She is thrilled but realizes that accepting the offer would mean postponing the wedding. The affable Tom not only agrees to postpone for two years but also says he will move to Michigan with Violet. This means leaving his job as a chef at a ritzy restaurant to try to find employment in a college town where fast food and cheap eats are king.

There is of course a big adjustment period, especially for Tom. He interviews at many unworthy restaurants before finally getting a job at a deli. He is clearly unhappy with his work, but he loves Violet and sees how happy she is being mentored by Winston (Rhys Ifans), so decides to stick with the plan and stay in Michigan.

As the end of the two years approaches, Tom appears thoroughly depressed by the cold, miserable Michigan weather, but the worst part is that his relationship with Violet is equally cold. While she is happy working, he is falling deeper into a funk that he can't seem to get out of. He occasionally tries on the pink bunny costume he was wearing when they met, but now it is stained and tattered.

The couple begins arguing, which leads to what is the most poignant scene in the entire movie. Tom screams that he wants to be alone, but when Violet gets up to grant his wish, he realizes he wants to be alone together with her. This may seem wishy-washy to some, but it shows that co-writers Segel and Nicholas Stoller understand how complicated relationships really can be.

When Violet's term with the university is extended, the fights really start to get bad. It doesn't help that Violet's sister Suzie (Alison Brie) meets and fall in love with Tom's boss Alex (Chris Pratt). The two quickly get engaged and manage to make it down the aisle on schedule, a fact that does not escape Tom and Violet.

The two decide to call it quits and begin to date others. As in many romantic comedies, it is clear that even while apart, they are still very much in love. There is a rather inevitable conclusion, but the fun of "The Five-Year Engagement" comes from witnessing the journey. Director Stoller chose not to gloss over the fighting or the growing apart the way many romantic comedies would. The fights, the reconciliations and all the little intimate moments that make up a relationship are all given lots of screen time here.

"The Five-Year Engagement" is produced by Judd Apatow, who previously collaborated with Stoller and Segel on "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Like that movie, this one has plenty of raunchy moments. There are some crazy incidents at the deli involving food and hot sauce. One of Tom's coworkers can't seem to stop saying crazy, sometimes sleazy, things for a laugh. There is even a big toe that gets lobbed off of someone's foot. Though a few of these scenes seem out of place, they balance out a romance that could have easily turned sickly sweet without them.

The movie clocks in at just over two hours, which is rather long for a romantic comedy by today's standards. Luckily, not a single scene seems extraneous. In fact, the extra time spent developing the main characters makes the audience root for their happiness. The viewers truly want these two to end up together, which is a testament to the co-writers who took such pains to develop both characters. It also doesn't hurt that there are some truly gut-busting funny moments along the way.