Five Years feels like 50
The laughs are few and far between in slow-burning comedy
The Five-Year Engagement
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Christ Pratt, Alison Brie
Rated R for sexual content and language throughout
2 hrs., 4 mins.
Are you ready to spend five years traveling? And not just traveling, traveling back and forth to the same two cities with the same group of people who keep having the same arguments that draw the same conclusions?
Sounds rough, no? That’s how this film felt to me. What’s worse, after sitting in my seat for two hours and watching this story end right back where it started, I couldn’t help but wonder if there isn’t a better way for two people to make their wedding plans. Seriously, it shouldn’t be this hard. But, to prop up the film’s premise, this is what the audience is forced to endure.
Tom Solomon (Jason Segal) is a sous chef at a San Francisco restaurant. Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) is a graduate student who has ambitions to be a university professor. Tom and Violet meet at a New Year’s Eve party and fall in love at first sight. Exactly one year later, Tom sets up a surprise proposal at his restaurant. From there, the long journey begins.
The major hitch comes when Violet receives a graduate fellowship from the University of Michigan. Tom, being a very supportive fiancé, moves with her to the land of ice and snow. They both agree to put their wedding on hold so she can spend the next two years studying. What, you ask? Trading San Francisco for Ann Arbor? Who can blame the Pakistani chefs in this film for laughing?
As you might guess, things go downhill quickly for Tom, who can only find work in a local deli owned by strange guy Tarquin (Brian Posehn). When culture shock sets in, Tom comes unraveled, growing a Fu Manchu-style beard, wearing weird hand-knit sweaters and learning how to slaughter deer. Meanwhile, Violet prospers in her studies, mainly because her graduate adviser, Winton Childs (Rhys Ifans), takes a fancy to her.
The problem with this film is its predictability. I knew the premise would lead them apart only to throw them back together. I also knew that no matter how long these two dilly-dallied around, they would eventually get married. All this I could have guessed within the first 15 minutes of the film.
Furthermore, the story meanders like a hiker lost in the woods. I found myself squirming in my seat, wishing that a large wrestler had been called in to sit on the heads of writers Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller. “Put down the pen,” he would growl, “and yell uncle.”
Fortunately, in spite of several stretches of flatline, there is comedy to be found, though more in pieces than in anything resembling a coherent story. The pieces that work best include some inspired performances by Brian Posehn, graduate assistants Mindy Kaling, Randall Park, Kevin Hart and Saturday Night Live alum Chris Parnell as an expert deer hunter and really bad knitter.
If you’re willing to endure some downtime in this film, you might find the comedy worth waiting for. You might even find some small heart in their wedding dilemma.
But for those who like a brisk plot and an interesting storyline, Five-Year Engagement will probably feel like a Southwest flight that puddle-jumps its way from San Francisco to Detroit. For me, I knew this film was traveling somewhere. I just wanted the trip to hurry up and be over with.