Published Apr 26, 2012Three films into his career as a director and Nicholas Stoller is batting one thousand. After hilarious and heartfelt break-up flick Forgetting Sarah Marshal and the hysterical further adventures of id-riding rock star Aldous Snow in Get Him to the Greek, The Five-Year Engagement is a decidedly more mature, but no less funny take on relationship dynamics.
Assembling an exceptionally charming cast, Stoller, from a script co-written with Jason Segel (The Muppets), tells a story of letting life get in the way of love. Tom Solomon (Segel) has grand plans for popping the question to his girlfriend, Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt, The Adjustment Bureau), but knowing each other as well as they do, Violet notices his nerves and Tom quickly cracks, confessing his intentions. Visibly delighted, Violet insists on sticking to the plan anyway.
These two have fun together, even when things don't work out perfectly. They're not idealized personas, just examples of people with individual ambitions and regular human self-interests. Tom is a sous chef on the rise in San Francisco and Violet is expecting to be accepted into a postdoctoral program in social psychology at Berkley. Life is good and wedding plans are speeding along.
When Violet is rejected by her school of choice and accepted by the University of Michigan, Tom supportively agrees to put the wedding on hold and pass on a promotion while she follows her dream for a couple years. Tom's optimism sours as Michigan life proves to lack the same level of opportunity for his skill set and two years of putting off their marriage becomes five.
Packed with smart, honest dialogue and realistic situations that address the pitfalls of selfishness and self-sacrifice in relationships, The Five-Year Engagement manages to take everything typical of romantic comedies and turn it into something poignant and relentlessly funny.
The supporting cast is fantastic, with Alison Brie (Community) and Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) providing major assists, their quirky charm and impeccable comedic timing nearly matching that of the wonderful pairing of Blunt and Segel. Excellent character actors Rhys Ifans and Jackie Weaver (Animal Kingdom) also lend weight and humanity to roles that could have been one-dimensional and unsympathetic.
When a mainstream romantic comedy this ably explores the dangers of idealism, the role gender expectations take in relationships and manages to always to find a sensible reason to inspire gut-laughs while doing so, it raises the bar for the entire genre. The Five-Year Engagement is quite possibly the funniest and most genuinely touching film of its kind. (Universal)