Am­bi­tious rom-com too un­even

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT -

The Five-year En­gage­ment Star­ring Ja­son Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Ali­son Brie. Writ­ten by Ja­son Segel and Ni­cholas Stoller, Di­rected by Ni­cholas Stoller. 124 min­utes, rated M (sex scenes, of­fen­sive lan­guage), show­ing at Read­ing Cine­mas Porirua, Light House Pau­ata­hanui cinema. Ja­son Segel and Ni­cholas Stoller cooked up one of the best come­dies of the last decade with For­get­ting Sarah Mar­shall, but their lat­est riff on re­la­tion­ships suf­fers from chronic iden­tity cri­sis.

Tonally, The Five- Year En­gage­ment is all over the map. There’s a hand­ful of won­der­ful scenes be­tween Segel and Emily Blunt, which of­fer more hon­est ob­ser­va­tions and in­sights into cou­ple-dom than we’ve come to ex­pect from a dozen rom­coms.

Judd Apa­tow – who pro­duced the film – and Segel and Stoller them­selves with Sarah Mar­shall, have proved that wit and heart can sit pretty com­fort­ably next to mas­tur­ba­tion jokes, but here the broader comic lean­ings are too ex­treme and un­even.

We meet Tom (Segel) and Vi­o­let (Blunt) just as he is about to pop the ques­tion, a year into their ro­mance. They are a sweet cou­ple and a happy fu­ture beck­ons. Tom is a chef at a trendy San Fran­cisco res­tau­rant while Blunt is a psy­chol­ogy brain try­ing to se­cure a re­search po­si­tion.

Though the ti­tle sug­gests the stan­dard rom-com fix­a­tion with wed­ding plan­ning, the crux of the story is more chal­leng­ing than that: the chang­ing in­di­vid­ual hap­pi­ness of Tom and Vi­o­let and the im­pact on their re­la­tion­ship – most promi­nently their move to snowy Ann Ar­bor so Vi­o­let can take up a con­tract at Michi­gan State Univer­sity.

Tom is mis­er­able in the Mid­west. Vi­o­let knows it, but lit­tle is said. Ten­sion grows and their re­la­tion­ship is put un­der con­sid­er­able strain.

Not ex­actly a laugh- aminute sit­u­a­tion, but don’t worry, Stoller and Segel con­jure ev­ery gag they can think of to lighten the load, from blood-gush­ing sliced fin­gers, cross­bow ac­ci­dents and weirdo stay- at- home dads who knit to a far­ci­cal street fight be­tween Tom and Vi­o­let’s boss.

Even when Tom ap­pears to suf­fer de­pres­sion half­way through the movie, it’s played for amuse­ment; he grows mut­ton-chops and turns deer hides and hooves into, well, ev­ery­thing. Watch out for the su­perb Chew­bacca joke.

The hu­mour is of­ten en­ter­tain­ing, but jar­ringly scat­ter­shot, un­der­min­ing the au­di­ence’s emo­tional in­vest­ment in Tom, Vi­o­let and their frag­ile re­la­tion­ship.

Most of the crude gags come cour­tesy of Alex, Tom’s brash best bud, played by Parks and Re­cre­ation’s Chris Pratt, while nutty sand­wich bar boss Brian Posehn ( The Sarah Sil­ver­man Show) pro­vides the mother­load of ab­sur­dity. If you’re fa­mil­iar with ei­ther of these TV shows, you’ll know how con­trast­ing the comedic styles are.

Given how of­ten folks in real life do put their am­bi­tions on hold for the sake of their part­ners’, and how peo­ple in their 20s and early 30s still have a lot of chang­ing to do – not al­ways in the same di­rec­tion – it’s sur­pris­ing how rarely main­stream cinema fo­cuses on such in­ter­nal pres­sures. In the past 30 years Hol­ly­wood has been ob­sessed with tak­ing two hours to get a man and woman to the first ad­mis­sion of ‘‘I love you’’.

The Five-year En­gage­ment recog­nises the more fer­tile ter­ri­tory comes af­ter this. Its am­bi­tion is com­mend­able, but its ex­e­cu­tion is a mud­dle.

For­get Sarah Mar­shall and The 40 Year Old Vir­gin, this is closer to the Get Him to The Greek and Funny Peo­ple end of the com­edy spec­trum.

has good in­ten­tions of mix­ing heart­felt re­la­tion­ship angst with hu­mour, but the bizarre mix of comic styles will test the au­di­ence’s de­vo­tion as much as Tom and Vi­o­let test each other’s.

Odd cou­ple: The Five-year En­gage­ment

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