There’s a rather simple formula for romantic comedies: boy meets girl, they fall madly in love, an obstacle comes between them, and they ultimately find a way to be together before the end credits roll. The Five-Year Engagement doesn’t recreate the formula for romantic comedies, but it does tweak it enough to create something that feels fresher.
You can chalk it up to the film’s producer, Judd Apatow, who’s made a name for himself in tweaking what works in comedies. I think the strength of this film, though, comes from co-writers Jason Segel and Nick Stoller, who also serve respectively as star and director. This is the duo’s third writing collaboration, following Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Muppets, and with each collaboration, they’ve proven adept at creating memorable stories and characters.
Segel stars as Tom, an up-and-coming chef in San Francisco who’s engaged to Violet (Emily Blunt), a psychological researcher. When Violet’s career leads her to Michigan, Tom puts his career on hold to join her, resulting in one of several postponements of their planned marriage. What was originally intended to be a temporary move begins to look more permanent as Violet finds success in her career, while Tom struggles with putting his career on the back burner.
The film puts the couple through the proverbial wringer in more ways the longer it goes. It’s…refreshing, really. The story goes to great pains to illustrate how small things can come together over the course of time until they end up overwhelming a relationship, as opposed to the typical Hollywood contrivance of having one major event potentially ruin a relationship.
It also helps that the movie is riotously hilarious. Segel and Blunt have a winning chemistry and killer senses of humor. They’re matched by a supporting cast that includes Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation), Allison Brie (Community, Mad Men) and Mindy Kaling (The Office), all hilarious in their own ways.
All in all, The Five-Year Engagement is one of the funniest films to come out so far this year, and it achieves this feat while also being remarkably poignant. It’s definitely worth watching.