Saturday night, we were sitting around chillaxing, and The Five-Year Engagement (2012) had just started. It’s a strange romantic comedy drama starring Jason Segel and Emily Blount, supported by Chris Pratt, and Allison Brie. I say strange because the film is portrayed initially as a romantic comedy, but it veers into slightly darker themes, becomes a drama of sorts, then switches gears back again into a quirky romantic comedy. It was overly long at two hours, and a little drawn out.
The film is about Tom and Violet who, after a year of dating, get engaged. They begin planning their wedding and a life in San Francisco. She’s an experimental psychologist, hoping for a postdoctoral degree at Cal Tech. He’s a sous chef who runs the kitchen when the chef is away. When she is rejected by Cal Tech, she receives and accepts a graduate school admission offer from the Univ. of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Tom agrees to support the move to Michigan, turning down a job as chef at a new restaurant. The move requires postponing the wedding. At Michigan, Violet is in her element, but Tom is underemployed and frustrated; he is initially supportive and stoic for a while, but when two years in Michigan become four, the wedding is placed on hold again, and Tom’s frustrations boil over as he slowly lets himself go over time.
Chris Pratt and Allison Brie are Tom and Violet’s screwy friend and sister, respectively. The film uses them for comedic value as two screwballs who eventually get their lives together, contrasting against Tom and Violet, whose lives are in a seeming holding pattern.
I don’t mind, and would rather prefer, a romantic comedy that strives to be more than the usual fluff. I’m pretty sick of those. Directed by Nicholas Stoller, written by Stoller and Segel, this film didn’t know what it wanted to be. It veered uncomfortably from one genre of film to another, took too long to arrive at the end of the story, and you wished it had gotten there sooner. For example, yes, Segel’s character Tom is depressed about his now unfulfilling life in Michigan, but it seems that he ends up depressed for at least 25-50% of the film. I think you can touch upon that, but that will drag down a comedy uncomfortably.
Produced by Judd Apatow, it is similar to his other recent slate of films where it is less a coherent story, and more of a series of sketches. And each sketch consists of talented actors and actresses improvising humorously, but in total makes the film go on for far too long.