The Five Year Engagement

Visiting the cinema today was a challenge – rainy tempests drove much of the local population to spend time with Spider-Man and Katy Perry. Avoiding the crowds, I was one of three to see The Five Year Engagement and, considering that the other two were a snogging couple, I may have been the only one actually to watch the film. I was drawn to the movie because of a) I don’t like spiders and b) Emily Blunt. The latter is just as well because Emily appears in 7 out of 10 movies made in recent times.

After a blip, I was won over back to Emily by the surprisingly enjoyable Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I had such hopes for The Five Year Engagement, especially as it matched Emily with one of her Gulliver’s Travels co-stars Jason Segal. The screenwriter of Gulliver’s Travels, Jason Stoller, must have thought the same thing because he is the director of The Five Years Engagement. Unfortunately, while his stars did all that was asked of them, Stoller let them down by his inability to say cut.

The clue to the story is in the film’s title, successful San Francisco chef Tom (Segal) meets the girl of his dreams Violet (Blunt) at a New Year’s Eve party. The fact that he’s wearing a pink bunny suit and she’s dressed as Princess Diana puts neither off and within a year they’re engaged, much to the vicarious enjoyment of Tom’s cooking chum Alex (Chris Pratt) and Violet’s slightly unhinged sister Suzie (Alison Brie), their parents and rapidly depleting sets of grandparents. Plans to marry are postponed when Violet steps up a rung of the ladder of academia with a post as a social psychologist at Michigan University with the rather odd Professor Winton Childs (Rhys Ifans). Needless to say, Michigan is a bit of a culture shock for Tom whose only company is the decidedly odd local male population which combines growing strange facial hair with knitting and shooting stuffed deer. The delays go on and on and before they knew it – but long after we realise it – five years have come and gone and still no wedding.

There are some very funny moments and situations in The Five Year Engagement but a big problem is that the film is 2 hours and 10 minutes – far too long for this script. While both Violent and Tom are extremely likeable and charmingly played, their characters stray into the realms of farce and cheese which, while all right in themselves, only serve to take a cricket bat to the more subtle attempts at winning our love. The marketing stresses the connection to Bridesmaids via the producer, but that ‘zaniness’ which was on the edge in parts of Bridesmaids, crosses the line here.

The Five Year Engagement is full of what I would (prudishly, I grant you) call ‘unnecessary moments’. Some of the visual gags are too crude and irrelevant and while there are characters who are given the chance to be interesting to us – I was intrigued by Professor Childs – others are less than caricatures. But even Childs, well acted by the ubiquitous Rhys Ifans, isn’t allowed to flower. I’m not sure that psychology (let alone Michigan) come out of it too well either.

Nevertheless there are some high points, not least the wonderful ending, and it was hard not to fall for Alex and Suzie. There were other moments I prayed to end.

Emily Blunt has perfected this role – the intelligent, quirky yet beautiful and articulate British girl who can fit into any environment. Rhys Ifans has similar chameleon powers. The makers of The Five Year Engagement should be grateful for their stars’ appeal because if it weren’t for Emily Blunt, Rhys Ifans and, to a lesser extent Jason Segals, there would be little reason to invest the 2 hours and 10 minutes. As it is, I still feel that they owe me.

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