EW Movie Review: The Five-Year Engagement
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Romantic comedies, it's often been said, end just as the truly interesting drama of love is beginning. But not in The Five-Year Engagement, a lively, original, and scattershot-funny ramble of a Judd Apatow production.
Tom, played by Jason Segel -- he of the empathetic smirk -- and Violet, played by Emily Blunt -- who gives off the most gorgeous British glow since Julie Christie -- have just gotten engaged. The two live in San Francisco, where he’s a sous-chef on the rise, and she’s an academic psychologist dreaming of a job at Berkeley. When Berkeley turns her down, she accepts the offer of a two-year research position at the University of Michigan. Except that when the couple move to Michigan, it turns out HIS job opportunities are less than zero.
The Five-Year Engagement was directed by Nicholas Stoller, from a script he co-wrote with Segel, and like their earlier collaboration, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the movie has a shaggy, unpredictable structure that works for it. It only pretends to be about a couple who have to keep postponing their wedding plans, year after year. Yes, that’s the basic outline, but Tom and Violet could easily tie the knot. The real issue is that marriage wouldn’t solve their problem -- which is that Tom, his career in a dead zone, loses his purpose, his joyful manhood. He grows an ugly Midwestern beard in a style that might be described as Ted Nugent-meets-clinical depression, and the more he sinks into his funk, the woolier and funnier the movie gets.
You have to accept a basic contrivance that’s built into the The Five-Year Engagement: In what’s meant to be a thriving college town, couldn’t a chef with Tom’s skills find a cooking gig a little higher up on the food chain? Yet once you go with its premise, the movie is an enjoyably close-to-the-bone comedy. Tom and Violet drift, love, fight, do pillow-talk therapy -- and that’s all before Tom goes off the deep end. Meanwhile, the movie finds an antic redemption in Violet’s highly amusing team of postdoc psychology colleagues, who each have at least one screw loose. The Five-Year Engagement isn’t a comedy about falling in love. It’s a comedy about falling from love, and grasping your way back to happily ever after.