I am not a huge fan of romantic comedies. Mainly because they are so trite and unrealistic that I get angry while viewing them. This is why Shaun of the Dead is my favorite romantic comedy. Because it’s more realistic than anything that has ever been released starring Kate Hudson and it has zombies in it. Zombies people. The ability to capture real human emotion and the complexities of being in a relationship while at the same time making the audience laugh is a skill beyond the means of most writers. You usually get it one way or the other. You want to capture that sense of deep emotion, you had better be writing a drama. You want to make the audience laugh, don’t skew to close to reality. This is the way things are and very rarely can you do both and not come off as a tone-deaf misfire. The Five Year Engagementis able to tread that line quite well. I won’t say it’s perfect, because it does hit notes that push it closer into dramatic territory than your typical romantic comedy should endeavor to go but at the same time this isn’t a typical rom-com.
The story deals with Ted, a master chef played by lovable human teddy bear Jason Segal and his relationship with Violet, played by British actress and John Krasinski penis recipient Emily Blunt. Violet is accepted in a graduate program at a university halfway across the country and the two postpone their impending nuptials while she explores her new found opportunities. In order to do this, Ted sacrifices his chance to be the lead chef at a high-profile restaurant and is reduced to working in a sandwich shop with Brian Posehn. While the plot summary would seem to indicate that the audience is pushed into believing that this is a “girl makes man give up his dreams” sort of situation, the film is far more complex than that. Ted is a likable character, and you do feel bad that things don’t go his way in some regards, but at the same time you realize that the movie is trying to say that you can make your own happiness. I don’t want to give away any major plot points but this is a very even-handed take on a situation that could have been played favorable to either side and the characters here feel very human and vulnerable. It’s what makes the film so strong.
The writing is excellent, on par with Segel and Stoller’s other work in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which I thought was a pretty great movie in and of itself. As in that film, The Five Year Engagement soars because of the dedication put into the characters by the cast. Jason Segal plays within his comfort zone yet again, and while some people may be turned off by that, given the material it works. He doesn’t go so far into the middle-aged man-child shtick that he tends to sometimes, and he comes off as entirely genuine as a result. Emily Blunt is wonderful and is quite funny in her own right. She plays the role straight and wins major points because of it. Let’s not forget she is quite an amazing dramatic actress and so her line readings here are so spot on that she absolutely kills. Chris Pratt, possibly the best thing about Parks and Recreation every week, proves that he can be funny no matter what you ask him to do and the adorable Alison Brie absolutely kills with her fake British accent. The scene where Brie and Blunt argue about the importance of making romantic decisions while impersonating Elmo and the Cookie Monster respectively (Trust me, it makes sense in context) is a highlight of the film.
I will say that like most Apatow produced comedy films it does run a little on the lengthy side, but the film is so well made that you almost don’t notice it. They don’t try to rush things and the pace is comfortable. In the end the payoff works because you’ve spent more time with these characters than you would in a traditional romantic comedy and for that reason I think the film stands a cut above other films that have tried and attempted the same thing. All in all, I suggest checking it out. It’s funny and genuine and you could do a whole lot worse.
*Crossposted from The J. Goodson Blog