If I asked you what the concept of an actual five-year long engagement sounds like, what would your answer be? Long, drawn out, never-ending? Well, sadly, that’s how the film felt too.
The Five-Year Engagement was one that I was looking forward to for a couple of reasons. 1. The cast: Who doesn’t love Jason Segel? Alison Brie? Chris Pratt? The English goddess that is Emily Blunt? I adore them all. 2. The fact that this film was written by Segel himself and his frequent collaborator, Nicholas Stoller (who directed as well), and these guys brought us one of my all-time favorite, gets-better-the-more-you-watch-it-comedies, the totally fucking hilarious and awesome Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
The thing about Marshall is that the first time I saw it, I found it to be sort of stupid, and certainly not very funny. As time has gone on, however, I’ve grown to love it. I wonder if the same thing will happen for this film as well? I can only wonder, as I never thought Marshall would have grown on me either, so perhaps this review should be taken with a grain of salt.
Segel and Blunt are Tom and Violet, a sweet, happy couple, who actually seem to have a normal, healthy relationship. His character is similar to what he is known for (and is pretty good at) – a guy who is actually decent, kind, funny, and cool. See: Marshall Erikson, Peter Bretter, Sydney Fife. Tom’s a talented sous chef at an up-and-coming restaurant in the picturesque and way-nicer-than-wherever-you-probably-live San Francisco. Violet is finishing up school and applying to psychology grad programs (or something like that), unfortunately, the only place that accepts her is the University of Michigan. Oh, the shock horror of having to go live in the midwest! Since Tom is a nice person and actually gives a shit about his fiance, they move, and put the wedding off.
Michigan proves to be trying in many ways (although, as someone who went to school near Ann Arbor, it was rad to see several places I’ve actually been up on the big screen), as Tom cannot find a job similar to what he was doing in Cali and Violet’s also-British boss (a smarmy and slightly repulsive Rhys Ifans) is a tad flirty with her. And so begins the never-ending cycle. Tom becomes continually more frustrated with his path and descends into a depression so deep he ends up growing a terrifying beard and wearing knit sweaters while hunting in the woods for their actual dinner. Violet is doing well but the strain of knowing that Tom’s failing and the fact that they keep on putting that wedding off, just wear and wear until they finally rip apart at the seams. This proved to be, as it might sound, sort of painful to watch.
The problem about Tom and Violet is that they were likable. Not fall over yourself adorable, but pleasant, some-what normal folks, who you wanted to see succeed. Unfortunately, it got hard to keep rooting for them. Violet was nowhere near as cool as Mila Kunis’s Rachel in Marshall, and nowhere near as cunty as Kristen Bell’s Sarah – which means she was sort of mediocre. Ugh. As it went on (and on, seriously, this movie’s running time is over two hours. WHY. NEEDLESS!) I was in semi-agony and just stopped caring. Because, and this is my MAIN problem with this film: It was NOT funny. I mildly chuckled two or three times. Now, when a film is presented to me as “Judd Apatow-produced, brought to you by the guys who brought you Forgetting Sarah Marshall“, I expect a lot more. In fact, not many people in my screening laughed (it should be noted, I was in one of the last vestiges of cinema in a po-dunk town where the screen was TINY, the sound barely audible, the tickets FOUR DOLLARS AND TWENTY FIVE CENTS FOR A 9 PM SHOWING, and the audience elderly). The supporting cast – Brie, as Violet’s sister, and Pratt, as Tom’s idiot co-worker and Brie’s eventual hubby, and the rest of their extended families – were abrasive and mostly, the opposite of comical. So many of the jokes were set up, executed, and then just hung there, like Segel’s member in the famous break-up scene in Marshall.
I’ll admit that the ending was really kind of precious, but mostly what was running through my head was “Get married, or don’t! Just let me out of here!” If it had, say, the sharp, creative, bonkers wit of Marshall, I’d have definitely been more on board. As it stands, it’s a typical rom-com that’s mild on both fronts. Perhaps when it makes the HBO rounds, it’ll have a chance to evolve for me, but just like Tom and Violet’s relationship, I pretty much don’t care, either way.