The Five Year Engagement opens with a proposal. Tom (Jason Segel) pops the question to his girlfriend of one year, Violet (Emily Blunt), who of course says yes. Tom is a respected sous-chef whose dream is to have his own restaurant. Violet is a Ph.D. graduate applying to post-doctorate psychology programs. After she is accepted into the University of Michigan’s program, Tom readily agrees to postpone their wedding and move with her to Ann Arbor for the two years it will take to complete her post-doc. It’s then that he learns his boss was planning on making him the head chef of her new restaurant, but the decision to leave has already been made.
The move takes some adjusting for Tom, while Violet quickly finds her stride at the university, making friends and earning respect from her colleagues. Since no upscale restaurant is hiring, Tom begins to work at Zingerman’s, a popular deli. The next two years are difficult for the couple, especially as Tom is finding it hard to hide his unhappiness with their new lives. Eventually, they find themselves postponing their nuptials yet again as they struggle to work out the problems arising in their relationship.
Given the title of the movie, you can probably guess that the wedding postponement is a continuous plot point and a source of conflict for Tom and Violet. It’s interesting to follow the couple as they upend their lives in sunny California to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan, of all places. Of course, they’re madly in love, engaged to be married and Tom is very gung-ho about leaving his own career and dreams behind so Violet can achieve her goals. But you do feel for him, and understand his frustration and anger when their agreed-upon two-year plan changes. When two people want two different things, in two different places, how can they possibly work through that to have a happy, respectful marriage free of resentment and doubts? The Five Year Engagement tries to tackle those issues and for the most part, it succeeds. Segel and Blunt have some interesting chemistry that keeps you rooting for the couple, even when they’re being terrible to each other. Blunt is so watchable in nearly everything she’s starred in and watching Segel in this film reminded me of how good of an actor he can be with the right material. I could have used less gratuitous shots of his ass though. I was starting to have Forgetting Sarah Marshall flashbacks.
The supporting cast is fantastic, most notably Alison Brie and Chris Pratt. Brie plays Violet’s sister Suzie who ends up having a fast-paced but passionate relationship with Tom’s buddy and co-worker Alex, played by Pratt. They provide a lot of humor in the film, acting as confidantes to Violet and Tom, symbolizing where the couple should have been in their own relationship had Violet not been accepted into the University of Michigan. There is one particular scene where Violet and Suzie argue over their life choices in the voices of Elmo and Cookie Monster, as requested by Suzie’s daughter. It’s such a funny, charming scene that really helped counteract the bleaker bits of the movie.
I was surprised at how many familiar faces popped up throughout the movie. Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, and Randall Park have some extremely fun moments as Violet’s colleagues in the post-doc program. Chris Parnell and Brian Posehn are their usual reliable selves as friends of Tom’s and there are also some blink and you’ll miss it moments featuring Kumail Nanjiani, Molly Shannon, and Michael Ensign. Dakota Johnson also has a small role as an admirer of Tom’s.
For the most part, I enjoyed The Five Year Engagement, but at over two hours long, I felt there were many scenes or moments that could have easily been cut to give it a more palatable runtime. There are only so many roadblocks and arguments in a relationship one can take before you start to get impatient for the resolution. Ultimately, I found it to be an earnest, believable rom-com with a sparkling cast that is definitely worthy of a watch.