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Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Five-Year Engagement

Anyone in the mood for a top notch mainstream romantic comedy? I have just the thing for you.


It's funny, I keep on harping on and on about how not only is Emily Blunt hands down one of modern cinema's most likable leading ladies, she has this uncanny ability to seemingly always work with some of modern cinema's most likable leading men. While I'm still waiting for her to work with real life hubby, John Krasinski, we now have her acting alongside the effortlessly, yet atypically, charming Jason Segal in The Five-Year Engagement.

Coming from the producing stable of Judd Apatow, directed by Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Nicholas Stoller and co-written by Stoller and Segal, The Five-Year engagement has some serious comedic talent behind it, but it sill manages to distinguish itself from the "Apatow pack". It's definitely too long, especially during the inevitable relationship-disintegration sequence, but, aside for that, it's a pretty damn perfect romantic comedy.

I would say that the rom-com gets a bad rep from "true" film fans and, well, men but the problem with most mainstream, Hollywood romantic comedies is that they tend to be cynical and depressing, rather than romantic and funny and are entirely deserving of their rotten reputation. It's a pleasure then to see a mainstream romantic comedy that bucks the genre's uglier trends at every turn. The Five-Year Engagement is genuinely romantic, genuinely human, genuinely free of cynicism and, oh yes, genuinely very, very, very funny.


In terms of plot, the film revolves around a loving and clearly compatible couple whose relationship is put to the test as their wedding is constantly postponed by the ill-timed take-off of her career as an academic and his abandoning his dream job to move with her to Michigan where a prestigious position at the local university awaits her.

On the more dramatic and romantic side, the film works as well as it does by featuring two lead characters that are likable, relatable and fleshed out enough that when the film's central conceit does take hold and life starts getting in the way of their love, their conflict always feels believable and it's easy to sympathize with both sides. Blunt and Segal have great chemistry so it's very easy to buy into their relationship and Stoller and Segal's screenplay always maintains an excellent balance between the harsh reality of their situation and the unbridled romanticism and real love on which their relationship is based.
 
With the romantic part of the equation taken care of then, we can get onto why the film is a must-see even to the more stone-hearted of us who wouldn't be caught dead in any film that has so much as the slightest whiff of being a "chick flick". Simply put, along with Ted, The Five-Year Engagement is easily this year's funniest film, with the laughs coming thick and fast thanks to some top-notch comedy writing (good to see Stoller back on form after a string of duds following Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and a killer comedy cast.

Emily Blunt and Jason Segal are proven comedic talents and they do brilliantly here, but they are almost - only almost, mind you, they are still the heart of the film - overshadowed by a supporting cast that is largely made up of some of TV's best comedic talents. And the bad guy from The Amazing Spider-man.

Alison Brie is already one of the funniest people on TV thanks to her unforgettable role as Annie Edison in the greatest show on TV right now, Community, but she really steps it up here. As Blunt's character's younger, overly emotional sister, Brie dons a convincing enough upper-crust English accent and steals every scene she's in.

Not to be outdone, Chris Pratt, who plays Andy on the other funniest show on TV, Parks and Recreation, is hysterical as a foul-mouthed and inappropriate best friend. Unsurprisingly though, it's when Brie and Pratt come together though that magical comedic alchemy happens. Anyone else up for a Community/ Parks and Rec crossover? After this, I for one, sure as hell am!

The rest of the cast fare hardly any worse - Rhys Ifans is especially great as as slimy professor - but the best thing about the comedy in The Five Year Engagement is that almost all of the laughs come from the characters rather than through cheap gross out stunts. Not that there is anything wrong with cheap gross out stunts but there is something so satisfying about an Apatow-produced comedy that refuses to use it as a crutch and allows the wonderful cast of characters to speak for themselves.

I don't know why The Five Year Engagement has gotten such a sniffy reception by critics and cinema-goers alike. It's sweet, it's romantic, it's likable and did I mention how funny it is? It may be a bit long - though really, who could complain about watching Emily Blunt strut her stuff for 2-plus hours? - but it's a romcom that is both romantic and funny. What's not to love?


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