Reel Romance: Love (Finally!) Marries Laughs in Five-Year Engagement
By Josie Brown
Somewhere within the best feel-good movies, the viewer must also feel bad enough to care (wince, maybe even cry, perhaps shout at the screen) for you to know that you’ve got a hit on your hands.
This is the case with The Five-Year Engagement. In this new romantic comedy starring the always pitch-perfect Emily Blunt and Gen X’s funniest romantic leading man, Jason Segel (who also co-wrote the movie, along with Nicholas Stoller, his Forgetting Sarah Marshall director), we certainly feel this couple’s pain as their mutual journey takes them to all of love’s road stops–attraction, commitment, loss–until, finally, they come to the realization that love may not always be perfect, let alone perfectly timed.
A cute meet is expected: for these singletons—Tom is a sous chef at one of San Francisco’s hot haute restaurants, and Violet is psychology major—it happens at a New Year’s Eve costume party. Of course there would be a love-at-first-sight connection between a chic Princess Diana look-alike and a giant fuzzy Super Bunny. The evening ends with his making her a scrumptious plate of eggs Benedict. A man who is sweet, funny and cooks? Yep, he’s a keeper.
(Now, if only he could keep his pants on in the kitchen. Really it would help if he kept his pants on everywhere. As much as we adore Segel as a comedian, full back-all is not a great look on him…)
It’s inevitable that this movie has its Happily Ever After. Within ten minutes (fast-forward a year, in movie time) he’s proposing to her, on the rooftop of his Bay Bridge-adjacent restaurant, just as the fireworks fill the sky. (Those of us who actually live here may snicker because usually it’s cold and drizzly—so we’re all dressed in Bubble Boy coats and open ‘brellies, searching for the rocket’s red glare somewhere within a whipped cream fog.) Stoller’s San Francisco is a love letter to the city, so trust me, I ain’t complaining. It’s why we put up with the high rents. That, and oh yes, the food…
Which brings us to the supposed conflict within the movie. Life is filled with Plan Bs. When Violet doesn’t get into UC Berkeley doctoral studies program in psychology, she initiates her back-up plan: taking a position in a similar program at the University of Michigan.
Of course, Tom agrees to go with her. Little does he know that Ann Arbor is the culinary version of a tumbleweed-strewn desert. Its only oasis is the (real and renowned) deli, Zingerman’s. (Hopefully the employees don’t partake in the after-hours shenanigans we saw in the film.)
This supposedly one-year commitment is enough reason to postpone the wedding, despite the fact that their own engagement party was the hookup moment for their besties: for Tom, his fellow chef Alex (Chris Pratt); for Violet her sister, Suzie (Alison Brie). Another sign of a knock-it-out-of-the park comedy is that the supporting actors are just as engaging as the leads. This movie is filled with them (including comedic heavy sluggers Mindy Kaling and Rhys Ifals). Pratt and Brie in particular are on their game, thanks to a script that is filled with hilarious—and best yet, true to life—dialogue. Touché, Mssrs. Segel and Stoller.
This couple’s conundrum isn’t a timing issue, but it is a timeless one among couples: should one give up one’s own dreams in order to helped their partner accomplish his or hers? When Violet’s academic assignment is extended another two years, Tom’s descent into the culinary equivalent of the Seventh Circle of Hell—not to mention the backwoods of Michigan—may be funny, but it’s also grimmace-worthy. Violet’s commitment issues are what sends him there. We, the audience who loves them both, have no doubt that she will come to her senses. The questions is when.
About twenty minutes sooner would have been ideal. Still, as with any wedding reception you’ve been to, when it’s all over, the only thing you remember is the fun stuff.
If only that were true of all movies.
(See the trailer, below…)
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