“The Five-Year Engagement” had a surprisingly poor opening over the weekend, grossing only $11.1 million and placing fourth at the box office. “Think Like a Man” maintained first place for the second week in a row, grossing $18 million, and somehow, someway, maybe by some misalignment of Jupiter’s moons with Venus, even “The Lucky One” (those who read my review last week know how I feel about this movie) managed to top “The Five-Year Engagement” over the weekend.
There are so many reasons “The Five-Year Engagement” is a better film than “The Lucky One,” but I’ll point to the most obvious: Jason Segel.
Segel stars as Tom Solomon, a sous chef at a clam restaurant, who proposes to his girlfriend of a year, Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt). Then begin the unexpected delays. First, Tom’s friend Alex (Chris Pratt) gets Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie) pregnant, and the two decide to get married before Violet and Tom. Then, Violet gets accepted to the University of Michigan’s two-year post-doctorate psychology program.
The two move to Michigan, despite Tom’s disguised apprehension, and there, the wedding is delayed even further when Violet’s successful thesis extends her program indefinitely. In the meantime, Tom has begun work at deli shop, a job he feels is an embarrassment, and begins to lose his sense of self. The problems deepen when Violet’s professor, Winston Childs (Rhys Ifans) kisses her at a bar, and Violet reveals the fact to Tom, who retaliates by nearly sleeping with a coworker. With the problems piling up, Tom and Violet call off the engagement altogether, and Tom returns to work under Alex in San Francisco. Little hope remains for the couple, but when the two reunite at a funeral for one of Violet’s family members, old sparks fly, giving the relationship one last fighting chance.
While some argue Segel’s roles are becoming repetitive in fashion, there is the age-old rule to consider: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s as if Segel doesn’t even have to try. His on-screen presence is genuinely funny and natural, as if he is doing nothing more than being himself when the cameras start rolling. It’s refreshing to watch, nowhere near stale, and seems to permeate any cast he encounters to create seamless chemistry.
Segel’s performance, along with his contribution to the script, which he co-wrote, brings plenty of new comedic moments to separate this film from the typical, formulaic romantic comedy. One example comes to mind, which I won’t give away, but I will say it involves Segel, a lack of clothing, and frostbite. That said, sure, this film isn’t for everyone, but on the other hand, it will prove close to home for anyone who has ever been through the ups and downs of an intimate relationship. The script captures the petty quarrels that come in relationships with pinpoint accuracy, and will have guys and girls well represented and able to relate. Despite its hilarity, “The Five-Year Engagement” doesn’t sacrifice comedy for romance. Even with its lighter take on the lovey-dovey stuff, the film is far more touching than “The Lucky One” (yeah, I said it), because it is not as intangible as said fairy tale romance. This film is real life wrapped up in a couple of well-structured hours. I expect a strong second week for “The Five-Year Engagement,” based on word of mouth alone. If I’m wrong, I will apologize to my readers by seeing “The Lucky One” again.