The Five Year Engagement – Review


Overstays it’s welcome by a wide margin

A good romantic comedy or drama generally overstays its welcome once it passes the 90 minute mark. No matter how good the characters or story is eventually the conceit of the story generally needs to be wrapped up at the 90 minute mark. And that’s the main problem with The Five Year Engagement: by the time the film ends at the two hour mark we’ve exceeded our tolerance for the situation by at least 20 minutes. But it’s a great setup for a plot, though.

Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) are at the one year mark in their relationship when they decide to get married. A psychologist trying to find post-doctoral work, their life in San Francisco is uprooted when she gets a job at the University of Michigan. Giving up his job as a chef to follow her, the film follows the two as their wedding date keeps getting pushed back due to a series of shenanigans. Can their relationship survive as life gets in the way?

It starts out well enough because of Segel and Blunt. They have an easy, affectionate chemistry and it’s to like the two early on. This is the third film the two have been in together, though not in the lead roles together, and their ability to together on screen gives the film a strong vibe early. As we go through their lives, and changes, it’s engaging because Blunt and Segel work so well together. Neither gives what you’d call a brilliant performance, as it’s good for a comedy but not quite great, but they do just enough to keep it interesting for the film’s running length. There’s also plenty of great comedy for them to use as well; seeing a couple of California residents react to the cold of the Midwest winter may be cliché but it is funny.

The problems with the film begin from two things: the inability to paint certain characters in key moments other than as less than nuanced and its excessive length.

The film has much more in common with a film like Blue Valentine or Scenes from a Marriage than it does with Bridesmaids, which this film has been marketed as being a spiritual cousin to, and it unfortunately doesn’t share the sense of nuance those two. The film has a handful of key moments that could shed much more light on characters and take it to another level and instead turn what could be pivotal character moments and make them generic. It’s a shame because we genuinely care about Tom and Violet. They’re well written and engaging characters and given a solid enough storyline that we genuinely care whether they can stay together or not; pivotal moments that could take them from good to great characters (and with it the film) are painted in such a poor light that it becomes almost painful to watch.

The film’s length is also a problem. There’s a great 90 minute film in here, waiting to come out, but there’s at least 20 minutes of padding to the film’s running length that could be excised. For a film to get close to the two hour mark, or surpass it, it has to have an intriguing enough story to make it last. Unfortunately there isn’t enough story here to make it last that long. There’s enough for a compact romantic dramedy with interesting supporting characters but not the sort of big, arching comedy this film wants to be.

The Five Year Engagement wants to be the same kind of film that Forgetting Sarah Marshall was but that film had enough story to justify a two hour running length. It’s still a good film but not quite the great film it could be.

Director: Nicholas Stoller
Notable Cast: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Dakota Johnson
Writer(s): Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller

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