Friday, April 20, 2018
Movies

Review: 'Five-Year Engagement' feels at least that long

Love is measured by stale doughnuts in The Five-Year Engagement, and if that doesn't make sense wait until you see the movie. Lots of people act dumb in love but the couple at the center of this rom-com takes the cake, which likely also is stale.

A highly appealing, typically fun pair of actors — Jason Segel and Emily Blunt — play Tom and Violet, whose perfection for each other is obvious. They get engaged in amusing fashion, giddy and framed by the Golden Gate Bridge, and begin planning a wonderful life together. Then Violet gets a job elsewhere, nuptials are put on hold and the couple moves to Michigan where more delays ensue.

None of the immediate obstacles make sense, so co-writers Segel and director Nicholas Stoller strain for a few more. Both Tom and Violet get kissed by others, drunken acts blown out of proportion to force a breakup. (Technically, they aren't engaged for five years.) Each finds something to resent about the other until two hours pass and they don't.

Now, let's take this one plot hole at a time. Violet's job is as a psychology professor's assistant. Never mind that she already lives in California, which has no shortage of universities with psychology departments. She could stay put, build a career, and not uproot Tom from his gig as a sous chef in a swanky San Francisco restaurant, with a lucrative offer on the table to run his own place.

Apparently they never discussed the possibility of relocation; the script doesn't bring up her application until a decision is made. Never is a long-distance relationship suggested, although Tom and Violet seem like decent bets to make one succeed. Or, maybe not. There's enough passive-aggressive behavior here — much of it unfunny — to fill one of Violet's case studies.

The most bizarre example is Tom's abrupt conversion from sensitive NoCal guy to rugged Michigan backwoodsman, complete with scraggly beard and various uses for slain deer. It pops in and out of the movie like a dream sequence without the shimmery camera effects. But it offers the opportunity for a child to shoot Violet with a crossbow, a preview trailer moment selling this movie as wackier than it is.

Since this is a Judd Apatow production, it naturally stretches at least 20 minutes longer than the material deserves. I submit that the toughest job in movies is editing an Apatow flick, since he supports long, improvised takes and hates leaving anything on the cutting room floor. You could excise entire chunks of The Five-Year Engagement — the donut experiments at college, a couple of wise soliloquies, most of the stuff involving Violet's sister (Alison Brie) — and never miss a beat.

Segel and Blunt are charming when allowed to be, and unconvincing when Tom and Violet are doing their best to mess up this relationship. They will get better roles in tighter movies, and it won't take five years.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.

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