The Five Year Engagement - Review by Stu

The Five Year Engagement is the latest film by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get him to the Greek) about Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) and Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) who meet one fateful new year’s eve and are destined to be married or so it seems. The couple’s wedding plans are continuously interrupted by other weddings, career opportunities and circumstances in their relationship. Set initially in San Francisco where Tom has established himself as a prominent chef and Violet yearns to be involved in psychology at Berkeley University. The couple quickly move to Michigan where the majority of the film takes place. For the most part this is a charming film although it does have its faults.

Jason Segel could very well be this generations’ Chevy Chase. They share similar physiques in that they are tall men who have a great screen presence. There is also an everyday man quality to them which makes them both likeable and relatable. Whilst Chevy Chase’s great strength was his comical facial expressions Jason Segel relies more on his ability to deliver witty dialogue. The success of this film therefore rests solely on Segel’s shoulders, as a co-writer of the screenplay his passion for the film is evident.

As a romantic comedy this film works, the relationship between Segel and Blunt is believable, in the most part this is achieved by giving the characters a history which they reminisce about during the film, this gives credence to their relationship as we’ve all sat with a partner and played the do you remember this or that game. I liked this aspect of the film. My biggest issue with the film is the directing, I am not a fan of Nicholas Stoller’s work yet. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a competent film only due to the cast and their chemistry. Stoller does nothing interesting with the camera except for the odd shot of slow motion here and there. There is a bland quality to his work in that the camera rarely moves within the scene and he doesn’t utilise any natural lighting to enrich the shot. This film would have been far more effective if it were more like Marc Webb’s 500 Days of Summer. I also had an issue with the fact that this film is set over a five year period hence the name of the film yet nothing is done to age the characters in any real way which was very distracting.

The Five year engagement is produced by Judd Apatow who is building up an impressive body of work both as a director and producer. I like that he is producing films which are attempting to straddle the dramatic and comedic genre. Films such as Knocked Up, Bridesmaids and Funny People have all been highly successful at walking this tight rope, The Five year engagement is not quite the same calibre as these productions but it’s a step in the right direction.

This film has an overwhelming message that we don’t always have to have a perfect life to be happy. If we wait too long the best things in life may pass us by. Tom and Violet are waiting for the right time to get married to the detriment of their relationship, this film proposes that sometimes it’s best to just jump into those murky waters and hope for the best. At times this is a clichéd story but I have no problems with that, like any feel good cinema I want to be comforted and entertained in equal measure.

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