“The Five-Year Engagement”
The first thing that needs to be said
about “The Five-Year Engagement” is that it’s funny.
The sense of humor is extraordinarily well-developed, from sight gags
to puns to innuendos to comical situations to brazen dialogue to cartoon
character imitations to scatological banter. OK,
if you’re easily offended by what you would consider “trash talk,” then
don’t go. There are some minor
characters who hardly do anything except cuss, and the joke is that they are
barely able to express themselves any other way.
And some of the little skits within the movie are nothing short of
eye-popping, jaw-dropping hilarious. But
it has its serious side, also, which is how it doesn’t degenerate into pure
silliness. And though the story
occasionally drags, the narrative definitely pulls the screenplay.
Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) and Violet
Barnes (Emily Blunt) met at a New Year’s Eve party, where she was dressed as
Princess Di and he was a big bunny. That
pretty well sums up their characters, too: he
is this big ol’ softie who’s an aspiring chef.
He doesn’t seem to care very much about sports, we never see him on a
computer, he doesn’t seem to do handyman stuff around the house, or yard
work, or doing any creative hobbies. He
does have a best buddy, Alex (Chris Pratt), who’s a bit of a charming goof,
and works in the same kitchen under a femi-nazi chief chef who harasses
everyone equally. Mostly, Tom is
completely in love with Violet, and proposes to her with a ruby ring because
he knows she’s concerned about the way the “blood diamonds” are mined in
. And she loves him for his
But our “princess” Vi, who’s
almost always beautiful and charming and hardly ever caught in a personally
compromising situation (unlike Tom, who’s Mr. Everyman with a boyish
enthusiasm), now has a career dilemma. She’s
been a doctoral student in psychology, but now has been accepted into a
prestigious post-doctoral program at
, which is a long ways from
, in more ways than one. Our Mr.
Supportive Fiancé, Tom, says he can be a chef anywhere, no problem, they’ll
just move and postpone their wedding plans, and she loves him for his
flexibility, but is concerned that he might wind up resenting playing
“second fiddle” in his own career, which happened in her own family, and,
unfortunately, will happen to them, also.
The move to
is difficult for Tom. There are no
openings in the finer restaurants, so he winds up just laboring uncreatively
in a local sandwich shop. Violet, on
the other hand, loves her new program, and her mentor professor, Winton (Rhys
Ifans, brilliant once again), who, it turns out, has more than a professional
interest in her. But she tries to
ignore his obvious fawning over her, assuming that he’s impressed with her
academic acumen. Right.
When Violet is offered the coveted
extension of the post-doctoral fellowship, with the attendant Assistant
Professor on tenure track, she is beyond ecstatic.
But Tom cannot help but be disappointed at the prospect of putting his
life on hold even longer, except now he finds it difficult no matter what he
tries to do. He can’t live with her
and he can’t live without her. She
wants him to be happy, but she doesn’t want to give up all she has worked
hard for and feels she deserves. The
classic modern working-couple dilemma. And
just to add some spice to the punch bowl, his family is American and Jewish,
and hers is British and Christian, but both families pressure them to get
married before all the grandparents die off (too late).
Will our star-crossed couple ever figure
out a way to be together in one place, happily?
Well, that’s the drama. The
rest is all poking clever fun at themselves along the way.
If you can’t find something funny in this one, you sense of humor may
need some development.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,