“The Five Year Engagement” is a new romantic comedy by director Nicolas Stoller, known for “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008) and “Get Him to The Greek” (2010). The film features returning star Jason Segel and British actress Emily Blunt. The pair take on dynamic characters threatened by a variety of hardships during their difficult engagement. Filled with colorful settings, quirky opinionated families, and the continuous struggle to get to “happily ever after,” the film seems like it will be fun and enjoyable. Unfortunately, due to its lengthy plot and depressing overconcentration on the problems in the relationship, the overall production is a disappointment.
As the story goes, Tom Solomon (Segel) and Violet Barnes (Blunt) get engaged and are about to plan a wedding when Violet is accepted into her long awaited psychology graduate program in Michigan. Already employed as a sous-chef in San Francisco, Tom decides to quit his job and move with his fiancé, with the assurance that the program will only take two years to complete. Time passes and Violet is asked to advance in the program, while Tom struggles to adjust to a less-prestigious job at a sandwich shop, the freezing weather and a new community. As a whole, the film focuses largely on Tom’s change from the dominant, successful partner in the relationship to a submissive, introvert resentful of the Violet’s decision. There are dozens of scenes that capture his regression and eventual depression. Meanwhile, their relationship is contrasted with Violet’s emotional sister and Tom’s best friend who lead more carefree lives.
The bright scenery of this film is particularly noteworthy. The Golden Gate Bridge and city of San Francisco, a countryside inn with accompanying patio dinner and Michigan’s groomed campus, not to mention Violet’s stunning wardrobe all capture the liveliness and romance that this couple is struggling to retain. The jazzy music further contributes to a youthful tone. Predictably, this charm is countered with the darker suffering of Tom who is unhappily supportive, and Violet who feels guilted by Tom’s sacrifice.
Unfortunately the attempt to provide comic relief falls short. The film strays from its chick-flick status by piling on obstacle after obstacle until it is emotionally draining for the viewer. By three-fourths of the way through, it is difficult to sympathize with their situation and the film feels exhausting. The viewer starts to believe that the couple would be better off apart. While the film is only two hours and four minutes, this constant drain makes it feel much longer.
“The Five Year Engagement” falls short in plot and timing. The performances of both Segel and Blunt were well executed, but the film’s shortcomings overpower its performances. As a result, the romantic comedy formula gets somewhat unhinged, while the pleasant settings and music fail to compensate. In the end, “The Five-Year Engagement,” though promising with reputable actors and a whimsical subject, becomes a weakened attempt to comically relay the collapse and potential repair of a relationship.