Film Review: ‘The Five-Year Engagement’


Prolific man-child director Judd Apatow is back in the producer hot-seat for The Five-Year Engagement (2012), an entertaining romantic comedy which will please Apatow fans as well as appeal to broader audiences. Directed by Nicholas Stoller, the plot follows Tom (Jason Segel, reuniting with Stoller) and Violet (Emily Blunt) who become engaged after a unique proposal in the film’s opening minutes.

Plans are made and venues are booked, but when Violet jumps at the chance to pursue her academic career in Michigan, Tom agrees to delay the wedding and put his own career as an aspiring chef on hold. Predictably, Tom’s willing sacrifice soon turns into resentment; Violet thrives in her new position while Tom wastes his talent preparing sandwiches in a deli, lamenting what could have been. As the planned two year stay is continually extended, more and more obstacles emerge for the likeable couple.

There are many intriguing and contemporary relationship issues which The Five-Year Engagement addresses, often in hilarious but nonetheless heart-warming fashion. Many audiences will likely identify with the betrothed couple as their path to the altar becomes increasingly problematic. Throughout, the sharp dialogue helps the film maintain its light-hearted nature, even if the problems dealt with are far from superficial.

As you might expect from an Apatow production, The Five-Year Engagement’s greatest strength is in its frequently laugh-out-loud comedy. There are times when unnecessarily awkward, raunchy gags fail to elicit the intended audience response, in turn needlessly dragging out the film. More often than not however, well timed one-liners and brilliantly staged physical comedy ensure that Stoller’s latest does not come up short in the laughs department.

Much is owed to the actors’ pitch perfect delivery in those comedic moments. Both Segel and Blunt deliver the goods as the two central leads, each displaying a wide range of emotions as their characters struggle to find an appropriate time to get hitched. Whether they’re in love or arguing, their interactions are never over-the-top, retaining a natural feel helped in no small part by Stoller’s witty script.

The entertaining ensemble cast, featuring Mindy Kaling, Rhys Ifans and Kevin Hart, also get an ample amount of time to shine. Alison Brie and Chris Pratt – who play Violet’s sister and Tom’s best friend, Suzie and Alex – are particularly amusing, even threatening to steal the show at times with some skilfully executed comedic set-ups. The Five-Year Engagement is everything you’d hope for in a romantic comedy; an engaging, frequently funny romp with a knowing analysis into modern relationships to boot.

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