The Five-Year Engagement starts where romcoms would typically end as Tom (Segel) pops the question to his soon-to-be-wife, Violet (Emily Blunt). Only their wedding doesn’t follow to plan as life repeatedly finds a way of coming between them and their nuptials. On the verge of receiving his dream job as head chef in a fancy uptown restaurant, Tom agrees to put his life, his career and his marriage on hold as Violet is offered a two-year psychology research position in dreary Michigan. As Violet flourishes under her professor’s guidance (Rhys Ifans), Tom can only manage to find work in a grimy deli and as his hopes of returning to San Francisco dwindle, he becomes increasingly disheartened by Michigan life. Their relationship begins to drift as Tom becomes an emasculated house-bound hermit, much to the detriment of his sanity and facial hair. They eventually become tormented by friends’ and siblings’ weddings and grandparents’ funerals which constantly put their future together into question and further instill the seeds of doubt as to the longevity of their relationship.
Though it may not be brimming with originality, The Five-Year Engagement is a polished effort with some real laugh-out-loud moments. The ups and downs that befall the couple grow increasingly outrageous but always feel realistic and consistent with the world of the film. Segel and Blunt work very well together, bouncing gags off each other and delivering lines with impeccable timing. For all of Segel’s charm and loveable demeanour, though, his character does at times feel like an extension of his previous roles, prompting a sense of déjà vu. Blunt’s comedic turn is superb; she commands the screen and draws out just the right amount of sympathy. The ability to empathise equally with both characters, as well as the relatability of the couples’ relationship tensions is testament to Segel’s writing skills.
The supporting cast are well worth a mention too, as Rhys Ifans in particular is brilliant as the villainous mentor. Community’s Alison Brie uses her candid sweetness (and an ever dodgy British accent, bu’ wha’ can yew dew?) to fine effect playing Suzie, Violet’s kind-hearted spotlight stealing sister who somehow ends up with Tom’s obnoxious best friend, Alex (Chris Pratt). Brie is eventually gifted the loudest laughs in a scene where she and Blunt practice their Cookie Monster and Elmo voices.
The Five-Year Engagement is a clear cut above the rest of its romcom cohorts and easily finds a place with the better comedies of the year. Tom’s mental breakdown provides plenty of laughs but begins to drag as the film loses steam - the excessive two-hour running time quickly debilitates. The gag rate remains high throughout but the similarities that it forces from previous Segel/Stoller collaborations remind us only that this latest offering doesn’t quite hit the same high notes.