Jason Segal and Emily Blunt play Tom and Violet; a recently engaged couple trying to organise their perfect wedding whilst their friends and family interfere and cause mayhem around them. So far, so generic rom-com. Then Violet is offered the position of her dreams in a post-doctorate program at University of Michigan. Agreeing to suspend the engagement, Tom gives up his career as a sous chef and buckles down to life as a sandwich maker at one of the University town’s many sandwich bars. Can their love endure the realities of life or will they choose to go their separate ways?
Not quite Knocked Up and not quite Funny People, The Five-Year Engagement seems to go for an uneasy mixture of the two and just about pulls it off. Everybody gets an opportunity to show they can display pathos as well as tell a fine dick joke. Whilst this cinematic equivalent of oil and water is not wholly successful, you can’t begrudge Segal trying to push the dramatic envelope a bit. We should all just breathe a sigh of relief that it didn’t become the painfully, self-indulgent mess that was Funny People.
No, the film’s major sin is that it is just too damn long. There is a good 40 minutes that could easily be taken out of this, mostly from the flabby, flabby middle. In the opening paragraph, it took me about three sentences to summarise what is essentially about 50 minutes of the film. In your average rom-com we would have got to Michigan under the 30 minute mark. Except we’re in Judd Apatow territory where the distance to the horizon is hard to judge. The Five-Year Engagement is a film that has no desire to rush to the end, confident that everyone is board for the long haul. Maybe a tad too confident. There are a copious amount of scenes that could be excised. For example, our viewing was deathly quiet during the 5 minute montage of Jason Segal having sex between sessions of Zumba. It’s also strange that a film set over a period of years, doesn’t actually give any indication of the passage of time. You will, at times, become completely confused as to how long it’s been in their lives. Okay, there’s Segal’s fabulous mutton chops to keep an eye on, but overall it’s like being in an isolation tank.
And there’s the other issue. As much as this website hates to agree with Katherine Heigl, Apatow’s films do tend to have that thin vein of misogyny that runs throughout. Sometimes, like a blue cheese, you kind of need it for the overall taste. And despite all it’s rom-com sensibilities, this is the same. Blunt seems to get the blunt end of the stick (Ha! Pun!). Whilst she begins to fall under the singular charms of the utter cad that is Rhys Ifans, Segal writes himself in as the man who has to brushed aside the advances of numerous Michigan women. It seems so uneven and unfair.
At the end of the day, The Five-Year Engagement knows its genre and manages to tick 60% of all the boxes. There are some brilliant jokes (Best man, Chris Pratt, listing all of Segal’s previous lovers to the tune of We Didn’t Start the Fire is a particular highlight) and everyone seems to be having the time of their lives. The problem is we just expected so much more from the people who brought us the joy The Muppets.