The Five-Year Engagement Review
Bearing all the hallmarks – the good and the bad – of a Judd Apatow produced comedy, The Five-Year Engagement is sketchy and overlong but is delivered with enough heart and laughs to just about make it work. Bolstered by two terrific lead performances from Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, the film at least attempts to put a different spin on a Hollywood rom-com, although it ultimately becomes predictable towards its, admittedly well-staged, climax. Put simply, its main flaw is that instead of just delivering on its premise of a couple who are constantly thwarted by life in their attempt to marry, it feels the need to slip into rom-com conventions – including the inevitable end of second act break-up – which extends an already bloated running time as a result.
Not that there isn’t fun to be had along the way even if the opening scenes, as Segel’s Tom bumbles his way through a proposal leading to an embarrassing engagement party, set a benchmark that the rest of the film can’t quite match. Whenever Segel and Blunt are on screen, it’s often a delight as the pair share an easy and believable chemistry; it’s just a shame that the film too often focuses on the secondary characters where performances are somewhat shakier. Alison Brie is a joy as Violet’s (Blunt) sister Suzie – especially when the two share a Sesame Street-themed relationship talk – but Suzie’s shotgun marriage to Tom’s best friend Alex (Chris Pratt) is an additional sub-plot that the film just doesn’t need. Simple often is best, and there’s definitely a winning 90-minute rom-com hidden with The Five-Year Engagement.
Thankfully, the film at least has its heart in the right place and appropriately tugs at the heartstrings without feeling forced; Tom and Violet’s hospital bed break-up scene is painfully raw, while the obstacles put in their way are at least mainly free of contrivance and feel real. This emotion is supported by a sharp script from Segel and director Nicholas Stoller, peppered with pop culture references and bad-taste gags, fortunately without a reliance on gross-out, barring one vomit gag. It also delivers some gasp-inducing moments for the more susceptible; Rhys Ifans as Violet’s faculty advisor Winton in particular gets a defiantly hissable line for one cold reaction to her.
Technically, it’s all solid as well with some smart editing choices and an excellent soundtrack but overall, The Five-Year Engagement feels like a missed opportunity. When it works, it shines brightly and manages to perfectly balance its humour with pathos, predominantly in its central relationship between Tom and Violet. And while the climax ensures that it ends on a touching high, the problem is that after the film has aimlessly wandered through its third act, your eyes will already have long been on the exit. The Five-Year Engagement may just about get more things right than it does wrong, but your overriding thought will be that given the talent involved, it could have been so much more.