The Five-Year Engagement marks another most welcome collaboration between Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Muppets). I really enjoyed both their previous efforts and I was very excited to see what they had come up with for their new film. In addition to that, the lead female role is played by one of my favorite actresses, Emily Blunt, making this a must-see for me. The Five-Year Engagement begins where most romantic comedies end and takes a look at an engaged couple who keep running into obstacles on their way to being wed. The often hilarious film has a few issues at the start but overcomes them and ultimately provides a very satisfying movie-going experience, especially for fans of the talent involved.
The beginning of The Five-Year Engagement starts off feeling a little disjointed. One of the causes of this is due to the fact that the movie literally opens with the engagement. I understand the point of the movie is to start there and then see the characters go through their issues and problems after the engagement, but starting that way gave me the same feeling you experience when you walk into a movie five or ten minutes late and you’re trying to figure out what you missed. You don’t really know anything about the two characters and have to accept that they love each other without knowing why or how they came to these circumstances. There is a little explanation as to how they met but it’s not enough to go on to believe they’d marry each other so you just have to accept it at face value. This one minor complaint about the movie actually ends up being a positive attribute after the rest of the plot plays out. You start out with their engagement that feels a little forced but as the movie goes on and the characters implode, surprisingly, you get a better sense of who they are and that they are indeed in love with each other. I liked the fact that their relationship had to deconstruct before they could come out the other side in a happier place together. It was a different approach than what standard rom-com fare presents us typically.
One thing that I really enjoyed with The Five-Year Engagement, and any of the Segel/Stoller written films, is that through all the entertaining things they put up on the big screen, there is always a sense of honesty in their writing. Romantic comedies are essentially fantasy films. There aren’t very many of them that are terribly realistic and we watch them because we want to see two people falling in love; it’s escapist wish fulfillment. Unfortunately, we are often given formulaic and lazily put together films that really only succeed based on whether or not you like the leads in the film. With The Five-Year Engagement, the characters are given small little attributes that make them feel real and even when their actions reach absurd levels, they always feel grounded in real emotion. Segel and Stoller have a knack for creating characters that are believable and relatable. It allows the audience to connect with them on a less superficial level and become invested in their outcome. It’s incredibly refreshing to have characters that feel real in a romantic comedy. A movie like The Five-Year Engagement is meant to entertain and service our escapist needs but I really appreciate that Segel and Stoller do it in a way that impacts you on some intellectual/emotional level.
The cast is pretty fantastic in the movie. Jason Segel and Emily Blunt both do great jobs at providing a lot of laughs while also bringing some realism to their characters. Their chemistry provides a nice base for which to build the characters’ relationship. The supporting cast is also incredibly strong. Chris Pratt (Parks & Recreation), as best friend to Segel’s character, literally steals every scene he’s in and bounces off really well with Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) who sports a British accent for her role as sister to Blunt’s character. The two of them cracked me up anytime they were on screen separately or together. As the film goes on, you almost start to wonder who isn’t in the movie as various comedic actors make appearances, such as Mindy Kaling, Chris Parnell, Brian Posehn, Molly Shannon, Kevin Hart, Randall Park, Kumail Nanjiani and Tim Heidecker. Chris Parnell in particular was pretty funny as a stay at home dad who enjoys hunting and knitting really bad sweaters. I also really enjoyed Randall Park, who played Ming, a postdoctoral social psychology peer to Emily Blunt’s character obsessed with creating an experiment that involves covering a subject, while asleep, with blood and chicken feathers and seeing what happens when suddenly awoken. Lastly, Rhys Ifans turns in a fun performance as the professor who takes a liking to Blunt’s character. There’s a scene where Segel is chasing Ifans through the streets of Ann Arbor that had me laughing a lot. I’ll let you find out why.
The Five-Year Engagement really feels like a breath of fresh air in the romantic comedy genre. It is consistently funny from start to finish and despite feeling a bit off at the beginning, it goes on to be a fun and heartfelt look at two people in love with each other. Upon another viewing of the film, I believe my issue with the beginning will disappear now that I’ve seen the film as a whole, which has made the structure of the film all the more appealing to me. Walking out of the movie, I kept thinking to myself that The Five-Year Engagement can be (very loosely) looked at as the Cabin In The Woods of rom-coms as it kind of deconstructs before rebuilding itself into what we’d expect from a movie in this genre. Agree with me or not on that point, but much like Cabin, I walked out of The Five-Year Engagement and wanted to discuss it. It’s most definitely funny but also thoughtful and any movie that has me thinking about it days after seeing it is a winner in my book.