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The Five-Year Engagement - Film Review

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by Matt Elliot Taylor (subscribe)
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
Event: -

We've seen films about weddings, young couples, romances, one-night stands and break-ups, but to complete the picture Hollywood picture that is we need the final jigsaw piece: the engagement. And boy, isn't it a huge, long-winded piece it must be the corner one.

The Five-Year Engagement is precisely what it is, title and all. The two victims of this prison sentence of a pre-wedding commitment are Sous Chef extraordinaire Tom (Jason Segel) and excited-to-be-in-love Psychology student Violet (Emily Blunt). Tom has prepared a wonderfully-romantic dinner overlooking San Francisco Bay complete with candles, wine, a sweet selection of a love song and a ring. Tom can't help himself though and he proposes in the car on his way to the restaurant, and of course a hyperventilating Violet says yes. And so, the planning begins with some exhaustive talking of plans and ideas. They have their fair share of embarrassments too, at the engagement party for instance involving his airheaded cooking colleague Alex (Chris Pratt) and Violet's dramatic sister Suzie (Alison Brie) of course these two hook up.

And so it goes and goes, and goes, and goes, as the hapless oh-so-in-love couple try time and time again to make each other happy but actually just make themselves, and us, miserable. Violet's career blossoms as Tom's dissipates into the life of a lonely, bearded hunter, leaving behind his prospects of opening his own clam restaurant. Whenever the wedding peers around the corner at them they find a way to run away from it, for presumably a five-year period as the title suggests. And five years is precisely what it feels like. At a runtime of over two hours, this is one engagement that presents itself as more like a marriage with the constant struggle of power in the relationship, the feelings towards having children and the ever-aggravating career goals what an unfortunate set of realities it is for these pitied young lovers.

"Honey, I think there's something on your head"

Much of the story's plot seems fair enough in a circumstantial manner of speaking, meaning that it has to do with the story, but I would have preferred to be more involved with their lives together and why they butt heads together at these particular times. Instead, the script written by Jason Segel and director Nicholas Stoller transforms to the screen as more of a series of clunky skit scenes that would work well on their own, but not when they get in the way of what the real point of the story is.

Fair enough, these might be presented as distractions just like they do for these two characters who just can't get a wedding off the ground, but still I didn't feel like I was let into these people's lives, just their relationship and its ever-growing turbulence. While some jokes definitely hold their place, they are too few and too far, and what we're left watching is a few big sections of story that suggest they've been welded together by a Year 8 Metalwork student. From the end of the first act, it just goes downhill becoming increasingly irritating as it limps towards the end. The only thing that improves is Emily Blunt's haircut she looks much more appealing with a fringe.

"Why aren't I mentioned in this review?"

Jason Segel makes effective use of his character, particularly in portraying his uncomfortable and unhappy nature with the situation, but Emily Blunt seems to ditz her way through much of it. She is interesting to watch though. Stoller and Segel have a healthy collaboration with their screenwriting resume including the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall [2008] and The Muppets [2012] but this is a case of third time unlucky. It's a dreary shame I didn't like this picture more, I just became more annoyed and restless than enthused and moved. I checked my watch four times in the last 45 minutes, and when my companion leaned over and said "Gee this movie's long" I knew I wasn't the only one.

The Five-Year Engagement isn't a bad film, it just could have been much better.

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Why? A convenient date movie.
When: May 3rd (Aus)
Where: Your local cinema
Cost: Check your local cinema for details
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