Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando
It's shameful to say that in the last twenty or more years I can count the number of good romantic comedies on one hand. With that in mind, I'm quite delighted to say that The Five Year Engagement is one more rom-com that I can add to that short list.
As the title implies, this is a film about Tom and Violet's struggle to make it to the alter over the course of five years. Tom is a San Francisco chef that proposes to the love of his life, Violet, on their one-year anniversary. When Violet gets accepted to University of Michigan's psychology program instead of Berkley's, Tom quits his job to move with her. As Violet excels with her psych group, Tom struggles with the fact that he can only get a job making sandwiches at Zingerman's Deli. This undoubtably puts a strain on their relationship and with every new hurtle that comes their way, the wedding is delayed further.
The last film that I can remember caring about the main characters as much I do in The Five Year Engagement was When Harry Met Sally. The key to both films is having an on-screen couple, or potential couple, that we as an audience are truly, emotionally invested in. Jason Segal and Emily Blunt do stellar work as their respective Tom and Violet. There's something so natural about each of them that from the moment we first see these two, we're rooting for them. They're a couple that goes through what many couples have to go through and nearly every reaction that each of them has to the other never feels forced or false.
Jason Segal also co-wrote the script with director Nicholas Stoller (their first film together being Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and I must say that these two have a gift for writing honest material. I recently read that the funniest moments in life and
in film are those that are the most real. Take for instance the opening scene of the film, which features a quite nervous Tom trying to conceal the fact that he is going to propose from Violet. The way Segal plays it is so genuine and believable it is one of the funniest scenes of the movie, and we're not even into it five minutes. The scenes where Tom and Violet are fighting, or when their simply walking the streets of Ann Arbor are perhaps the most memorable and the funniest because again, we see these characters as real people.
The film goes back and forth from San Francisco to Ann Arbor, which is important to note because so many films these days do not use location as a character. One of the criteria I look for in my favorite films is how location is used to better the story. Michigan serves as the foil to all of Tom's plans and it could not be more effective. They show Ann Arbor for what it is: a college town that's both simultaneously beautiful and frigidly devastating depending on what time of year it is. Yes, Michigan is portrayed as unbearably cold, and with the primary pastime being hunting. Or, as I like to call it, Michigan. Living in Michigan, I have to admit that seeing a film like this use it as a character is quite humbling. It's not often films showcase our state and when they do I'm always grateful.
The Five Year Engagement is not a perfect film, but it's damn good. It's a film that recalls great onscreen couples like Harry and Sally, or the best of the Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire films, and one of my personal favorite films, It Happened One Night. While we still may only be able to count good rom-coms on one hand, The Five Year Engagement gives me hope that we'll be able to add many more to that list, especially if Segal and Stoller continue with the amazing work they're doing.