LOVE hurts, though not too badly, in Nicholas Stoller’s romantic comedy about a doe-eyed couple whose rose-tinted dreams of marital bliss are undone by the pressures of everyday life.
Penned by leading man Jason Segel and director Nicholas Stoller, who recently collaborated on the script for The Muppets, The Five-Year Engagement trades heavily on the winning rapport between Segel and British actress Emily Blunt.
The leads, who are friends in real life, gel delightfully in front of the cameras and kindle sparks of sexual chemistry that have us rooting for their soon-to-be-weds when fate conspires to tear them apart.
Mirroring the central relationship, Stoller’s slick confection woos us with a terrific opening 30 minutes of zinging one-liners and colourful supporting performances.
Jacki Weaver is a hoot as the heroine’s sardonic and cynical mother who has suffered her fair share of heartache and scoffs at the myth peddled by Hollywood of a fairy-tale romance in which Tom Hanks gets the girl.
“The sad fact is, most relationships end up like Saving Private Ryan or Philadelphia,” she snipes.
For all its barbs and grim predictions of impending anguish, Stoller’s film is engineered with clinical precision to rouse and entertain, so you can be confident that the tears and bitter recriminations will be sweetened by a suitably feel-good denouement.
San Francisco sous chef Tom (Segel) meets psychology graduate Violet (Blunt) at a Make Your Own Superhero party.
On their one-year anniversary, he nervously pops the question with help from his best friend Alex (Chris Pratt).
Tom’s parents Pete (David Paymer) and Carol (Mimi Kennedy), and Violet’s mother Sylvia (Jacki Weaver) are thrilled and at the subsequent engagement party, bed-hopping ladies’ man Alex has an encounter with Violet’s emotionally volatile sister, Suzie (Alison Brie), that he will never forget. Soon after, Violet secures a doctoral position at Michigan University, studying under Professor Winton Childs (Rhys Ifans), and Tom selflessly sacrifices his career to follow her to the frozen Midwest.
However, the move puts the relationship under intolerable strain and Tom and Violet contemplate breaking off the engagement to pursue their career ambitions in separate states.
The Five-Year Engagement begins promisingly and establishes a brisk tempo with rapid-fire dialogue and some amusing vignettes.
Then the malaise sets in.
Our attraction to the script and the characters wanes and we almost fall out of love entirely with the film during a plodding and bloated middle section that noticeably treads water.
Thankfully, our disenchantment is tempered by unerring affection for Segel and Blunt, and some lovely set pieces such as an animated discussion between Violet and Suzie that forces the sisters to adopt the voices of Elmo and Cookie Monster from Sesame Street to conceal the forcefulness of their argument from Suzie’s inquisitive young daughter.
C is for cute.
STAR RATING: ***