Film Reivew: The Five-Year Engagement

Jason Segel is an ambitiousguy—continuing his duties starring in a television series (How I Met Your Mother), while finding time to write and produce films. First we were given the much adored Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You, Man. Now, Segel has produced and starred in The Five-Year Engagement, continuing in the vein of these preceding films by providing plenty of awkward, familiar situational comedy. The result is a highly entertaining and likable effort that largely succeeds, suffering only from a few small missteps.

Tom and Violet have a deeply functional relationship of a year, following a comedic meeting at a New Year’s Eve party, the telling of which is a repetitive motif in the film. Within a few moments of the film’s inception, the couple is engaged. When Violet is denied admission to Berkely and is instead accepted at the University of Michigan, Tom immediately agrees, with unflinching support, to quit his promising job as a chef at an upscale, San Francisco restaurant in order to make the move to the frigid locale of Violet’s school. Upon this decision, the couple agrees to delay the wedding, thus beginning a chain of events that push their plans further and further out, until no end is in sight.

Violet, with her driven, empowered focus and quick wit embodies a modern woman, as she also balances a traditional desire to marry. Likewise, Tom’s sensitivity, acquiescence, and willingness to compromise his goals for his fiancée’s “dream job” create a character that defies male stereotypes. These challenges to conventions make the film fresh, especially because the story and writing do not overemphasize these aspects, but regard them as legitimate and reasonable models for a lifestyle. In these ways, both strong characters enhance the plot of the story. However, other than the entertaining anecdote of their first meeting, we aren’t given much information about exactly why Violet and Tom are so great for each other. True, they have real on-screen chemistry; Tom is great, and Violet is great, but why are they great together? Therein lies one of the film’s only shortcomings.

The other misstep might also be considered an asset. The Five-Year Engagement feels like a Five-Year engagement. It does not necessarily drag or bore, but with its episodic and epic story line, you are aware that it clocks in well over the standard 90 minutes for most movies of this kind. At over two hours, the running time is more like modern, ambitious films like The Hunger Games film adaptation. However, these excessive forays also add to the quirky and laid-back pacing of the film, reflecting the chaotic events that interfere with Tom and Violet’s ultimate goal. The story could be tighter, but viewers in it for the enjoyment will be pleased with scenes that might have been relegated to a DVD deleted scenes menu.

In the end, The Five-Year Engagement may not garner as much acclaim or even fan-support as Segel’s previous films, but it remains a solid movie with plenty of laughs, uplifting storytelling, and fresh perspectives on traditional social structures, making it well worth ten bucks and a trip to the cinema.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.
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