Friday, April 20, 2012

“The Five-Year Engagement” – Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we saw the new romantic comedy “The Five-Year Engagement”, starring Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. 


When a recently – engaged couple is forced to postpone their wedding, will their relationship survive the challenges that occur as a result of the sacrifices they are forced to make?


Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) have been dating for approximately a year. On the first anniversary of their meeting – which just so happens to be New Year’s Eve – Tom pops the question to Violet, who giddily accepts. Delighted, they tell their friends and family – some of whom are equally as happy as the couple themselves, others are skeptical about either their future together or the institution of marriage itself. Regardless, they immediately set out to plan the wedding until Violet is notified that she has been accepted for a job in the Psychology Department at The University Of Michigan, which would require her to move there for at least the next two years.

As a sous chef at a fancy restaurant in San Francisco, Tom reasons that he has the type of job that would easily allow him to work just about anywhere, so he suggests to Violet that she accept the offer – he will then quit his current job and move to Michigan with her, then get another similar position at a restaurant in the city where they will next live. When Tom offers to make this sacrifice, he learns just how painful it will turn out to be because after he submits his resignation to the restaurant’s executive chef, she informs him that his timing is particularly bad because she on the verge of opening a brand new high – end restaurant where she planned on naming him the head chef.

Upon arrival in Michigan, however, things are not looking as rosy for Tom as they are for Violet. The smaller Michigan town in which they have settled doesn’t have that many fine dining restaurants – and the few that exist won’t hire Tom either because he’s overqualified or because they can’t afford him. As a result, he becomes under-employed, taking a job making sandwiches at a small neighborhood café. Between Tom’s professional frustrations and dislike of Michigan’s frigid winters, the experience is gradually driving a wedge between he and Violet – whom, he eventually learns, has recently cheated on him with her boss, causing Tom to return to San Francisco. But as they both eventually move on to new relationships, will the time and distance apart cause them to re-evaluate their priorities in life or will it convince them that each doesn’t really need the other quite so desperately after all?


If you liked “Bridesmaids”, you will probably enjoy “The Five-Year Engagement” as well – which makes sense, since both were produced by the prolific Judd Apatow.  For that matter, if you liked “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, then you’ll probably also like this movie as well – again, a no-brainer since the same team (Director Nicholas Stoller and star Jason Segel) also made both.  Obviously, despite those kinds of brilliant track records, nothing is ever automatic – yet here, this group of clever, inventive and intelligent comic minds have pulled off something that could very well be the next big hit comedy. 

The quality of filmmaking in “5-Year Engagement” is absolutely top-notch – making you laugh (and, frequently, laugh especially hard) while telling a story that sometimes takes something of a dramatic turn here and there.  Segel and Blunt seem a perfect match for each other – but then again, Segel always seems like a perfect match with almost all of his female co-stars because he simply comes across as just that much of a likeable everyman.  Also, in her ample amount of screen time, it is good to see Blunt given a decent chance to show off her skills as an actress equally capable of conveying both comedy and drama.  Speaking of which, a potential spoiler here:  be sure to keep an eye out for Cookie Monster versus Elmo – arguably the funniest scene in the entire movie!

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed Director Nicholas Stoller, who also co-wrote the screenplay with the movie’s star, Jason Segel.  Stoller said that the project took roughly four years to reach fruition; after working on “Sarah Marshall”, which was essentially sifting through the remnants of the wreck of a failed relationship, the two wanted to try something that was somewhat the opposite – examining the hills and valleys of a relationship over a long period of time.  Stoller also mentioned that aside from the significant tax breaks that they were awarded by shooting in Michigan, another motivating factor for choosing that location was the fact that he is originally from there and that both of his parents are actually professors at The University of Michigan. 



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