Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Five Year Engagement Review

The Judd Apatow Rom-Com juggernaut rolls forward.

So I just got back from watching The Five Year Engagement, the latest showing from Jason Segel, seemingly the only actor from How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) who is actually capitalising on the boost of fame it has given his career. Before we get into this review, I shall not lie; Romantic Comedies are not my forte. I have certainly watched enough of them in my life, due to the twisted machinations of the fairer sex; but I am by no means the target demographic, and as such everything I say should be taken with a pinch of salt, if for some reason, you like the Romantic Comedy genre.

The film touts itself as ‘starting off where the love story ends’. By this it means that we enter the story the moment where the male leader, Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) is about to awkwardly propose to female lead Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) in what is supposed to be a hilariously overacted opening scene, with stunted words, and the overuse of simple phrases like ‘oh my god’; which would have been fine and maybe even cute if Emily Blunt hadn’t proceeded to do it for the entire damn film, but we shall get to her in a second. Back to the predictable setup.

This is apparently what 'Chemistry' looks like.

I think the main problem this film suffers from, other than Emily Blunt’s character not being a character (I’ll stop going on about it soon I swear) is just how balls to the wall predictable it all is. This isn’t technically a problem in of itself, annoying yes, but the fact the movie was sold as some original concept of what happens ‘after the credits’ role in your boy meets girl story makes it all the more noticeable that this is just an ‘established couple have problems’ with extra flashback padding at the beginning, and that extra flashback padding takes its toll, this movie weighs in at just over 2 hours, a sensible time if you are making a film that spans over a 5 year engagement, but not so when you clearly didn’t have many original ideas to work.

Anyway, predictable, there are spoilers here, but trust me, they aren’t spoilers, and you already know it all, just like I did in the cinema as I watched it. Just see if any of this sounds formulaic.

Man is a highly paid chef in San Francisco, Woman aspires to be a professor, Man is American and Jewish, Woman is British.

Man’s best friend is a carefree ladies man who works with him, Woman’s sister inevitably ends up getting with him within the first 20 minutes.

Woman’s parents are divorced, Dad dates Thai-bride. Man’s stereotypically Jewish Mother and Father are still together, obviously mild religious clashes over wedding choices.

Extra love interests established without shame through the film never to serve any character role, merely as blatant ‘soon to be temptations’ whilst the couple goes through rough patches.

Woman gets dream job in a colder, more remote place than California. Man willingly agrees to give up his chef dream for a while so she can study there.  They agree to move the wedding back and prolong the engagement.

Whilst in said remote place, man feels emasculated by inability start up his career, falls into a shadow of his former self, while Woman rises high and gets closer to Professor/Mentor character.

 'Stop me if you think that you've heard this before'

I’m going to stop briefly with this fun little game, partly because it can get quite boring, and partly because if I recall correctly, by the time we hit this point we are about half way through the movie. Half way through and you can see every joke like it is the magic boss hand from Super Smash Bros. One of my friends came up with the idea that Jason Segel was on auto-pilot when he wrote this, and I’m perfectly willing to believe it. I mean, compared to the target audience, I haven’t seen that many Romantic Comedies, and yet I could still second guess every move, I guess the point I’m left wondering is, how could they enjoy this? I appreciate formula is fine if you then proceed to do interesting things with the main and supporting characters, and in fairness, several supporting characters do cross the line into funny, but they are rare, and their interactions usually solely based around Jason Segel’s character.

It is clear that Jason Segel wrote this movie, not because I recognise any of his trademarks, I, thankfully, haven’t seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Get him to the Greek, but the reports I have heard have been less than favourable (Jason Segel’s writing prowess and his acting prowess seem far removed if they are anything like this), but because out of the two main characters, his and Emily Blunt’s, he only wrote one, his. This is what leads to a collapse for a large part of the film, it is completely one sided, I had no real feelings on Emily Blunt to begin with, she was inoffensive enough, but bad directing from Nicholas Stoller combined with offensively little time put into not only her character, but the characters she interacts with is insulting. Rhys Ifans struggles along as a smarmy university professor, the aforementioned setup love interest to Blunt’s character, but the only time he becomes remotely funny is a chase scene with Segel. Equally, the throw away lines Blunt’s character says to stop her from appearing heartless are completely contradictory as she lets Segel’s character rot away in Michigan unabated for what must have been about 3 years.

Each minority was good for 2 jokes, Rhys Ifans included.

Anyway, in an attempt to now balance out this review, before getting on to 2nd half predictability, we are going to talk about things I liked. Segel’s Michigan support cast; whilst in Michigan, two new characters latch themselves onto Segel in the form of an overweight rock nerd who works at the sandwich bar, and a man who wears knitted jumpers and hunts, a warning to the character about what he would become if he stayed and gave up on his dreams, their redeeming features come from Segel’s interactions. Rather than the knitting/hunter guy freaking him out as to what he might become, he emulates him, and the three of them start to hang out, it was one of the few genuine character arcs in this movie that the three of them become friends, he even grows a beard similar to that of the rock nerd in the ensuing year. Of course, this is all portrayed negatively, and it is to an extent, this isn’t the man the character wanted to be, and it shows, though it does culminate in a hilarious  crossbow scene. I will leave it at that, just so no-one can accuse me of not trying to at least sell this film. Unfortunately, I think that is the only bit of the movie that could be called hilarious, and that was a pretty sadistic laugh. The ending was also pretty good, and not in a cocky ‘glad it is over way’, just because it kept better pace than the rest of the film.

After a series of incident of almost cheating, though obviously no character even committing such an interesting atrocity as this, the two decide to break up, so the ending scene can be inevitable heart warming.

The two go off to their backup respective partners and lives in San Francisco and Michigan.

Whilst seemingly the new partners are perfect to begin with, it is quickly revealed they aren’t. Rhys Ifans especially is debunked with the most retarded ass ‘Professor/Student’ subplot ever.

He appears at the 15 minutes remaining mark of the film.

You can fill in the damn rest, just like you could’ve probably filled it all in from ‘man gives up dream’. I was discussing this with another friend recently, and he said that apparently one of the draws of the Romantic Comedy for the women was this same familiarity, and I reply.

How I Met Your Mother-esque flashbacks ensue throughout.

That is sad, like, really really sad. If the only reason you want to watch a film is to see a variety of cut and paste actors fulfil the clich├ęs you have seen time and time again, well, that is a waste. Especially for a man I still am going to give the benefit of the doubt to, Jason Segel. That is of course until the 10 year engagement, or Forgetting Sarah Marshall again, at which point, Jason, it is over.

In conclusion, if you like Romantic Comedies, my opinions should mean nothing to you, while it is the least original, it is definitely not the worst, and even has a few moments of care and attention, a box labelled ‘masturbation tapes’ and a satisfying closing scene are testament to this. But overall, I can definitely not recommend this to any sane, function, emotionally healthy person, if your girlfriend wants to see it, go for it, you can argue in the car. If your metrosexual best friend wants to...Push really hard for how hot Andrew Garfield looks in Amazing Spiderman. 4/10.


  1. Romantic comedy: the attraction. These films do what they say on the tin - they are romantic and comedic. You can take your 5yr old or your granny. It is the only genre of film, apart from musicals, that promise not to deliver any nasty shocks.No-one will have a pencil driven into their eye, or have an ear cut off, nor will Jack Nicholson leer through a partially open door to declare that 'Johnny's home!' No-one will get buried alive, eaten alive or have their face melted off because, apparantly, the ark of the covenant didnt want to be opened. No diosaurs will tromp after a car full of children, no-one will have to saw their leg off to escape a bomb and no-one will stumble across a town inhabited by decaying corpses. None of these things happen in th innocent froth that is romantic comedy. You can relx into the plot and know that the cute family dog isnt going to 'get it'. That is the attraction of romantic comedy. Formulaic? Cant really see any simalarity between,say 'Green Card' and 'Sleepless in Seattle' but am willing to be proved wrong. The best r.c. of all time is 'As good As It Gets' and no-one will tell me different!