Chemistry wins the day for this romantic drama
After a magical proposal, Tom (Segel) and Violet (Blunt) are on the fast track towards their nuptials. But when life gets in the way and the engagement stretches on, doubts begin to set in.Jason Segel is a one man comedy industry, working in front of and behind the camera to bring titles like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek and The Muppets to the screen in recent years. As the star, producer and sometime writer, he’s had a meteoric rise from an appearance in Freaks and Geeks just a decade ago.Segel’s latest sees him reteaming with the director and co-writer of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Nicholas Stoller. The pair also collaborated on the script for last year’s The Muppets and have established themselves as a comedy force to be reckoned with.
Arguably, The Five Year Engagement is their most conventional film to date – taking a familiar premise and presenting it for our amusement. But, like the Apatow all-father, Segel has learned to mix drama with all-out comedy, a concoction that’s ideally suited for this story. But there’s also a sense of reality to the film which sets it apart from others in the genre, with laughs that come organically from the situations rather than being forced upon the audience by a brazen set piece.
Key to the success of The Five Year Engagement is the easy chemistry between its leads. Segel and Blunt look perfectly relaxed on screen during the warm moments and realistically charged during the altercations. It’s rare to see a movie couple that doesn’t appear to have been assembled purely for aesthetic purposes and these performers handle comedy, drama and ad-libbing with a grace and charm that’s refreshing to see.
Those dramatic chops come in the handy when the film moves away from light hearted material, and this is a romantic comedy which isn’t afraid to linger on the darker moments – on critical misunderstandings and Tom’s growing unhappiness as Violet’s career soars. The moment when it comes to a head is disarmingly real, exposing two people who are desperately trying to be good to one another but might just not have the capacity to make things work.Segel and Blunt are excellent but they’ve also got strong support, most obviously from Chris Pratt (who adds some depth to his fratboy persona here) and the delightful Alison Brie. Many will recognise her from TV’s Community and I was initially wary of her attempt to conjure up an English accent but while the tones may vary she does great work with the material. You’ll find some more dodgy accents in Violet’s extended family but it’s good to hear Blunt without an American twang, and the same can be said for enjoying Rhys Ifans’ Welsh lilt, though his role never quite finds its feet.
On the one hand, The Five Year Engagement is a predictable rom-com with a touch of drama and an exaggerated two hour plus running time. But it transcends that description by, quite simply, being better than much of its genre and delivering a simple tale, well told and embellished with laughs and refreshing honesty. And it’s all brought to life brilliantly by Segel and Blunt – the best on-screen couple we’ve seen for many a year. If you’re fed up with charmless, personality free rom-coms, this one’s for you.