Monday, October 22, 2012

[In Flight] The Five-Year Engagement

Seriously, You'll Wait That Long?

I am guessing someone procuring the films for this inflight entertainment system may have an infatuation for Emily Blunt, given two other films, Your sister's Sister, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, are also made available. One of the rising British actresses of today, Emily Blunt stars as psychology major Violet Barnes, who meets with Tom Solomon, played by Jason Segel, at a superhero fancy dress party, and within a whirlwind year of romance find themselves engaged, and being perpetually so at this state, outlasting many of their elderly relatives who would have loved to see them tie the knot. This is made as a laughing point, but The Five-Year Engagement really took on a more serious note at how time has an effect on a non-committal relationship.

Directed by Nicholas Stoller, who also did Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement seemed to depart from the usual Judd Apatow produced films where raunchy comedy would find its place in the narrative. After all, it had Jason Segel writing that and sharing writing credits with Stoller now, but comedy seemed to be fewer and more fat between in scenes, where it took on a more conscious effort to examine relationships rather than to go for the usual flat out comedy, and is especially strong in examining how one side of the partnership often wilts when a win-win compromise cannot be achieved.

This comes in the form of giving up one's promising career for the fulfillment of another's dream, where one may have good intentions and hopeful wishes that all would be well, but in reality it's a monumental task in fighting against stereotypes and prejudices, not to mention other vultures mulling around for a fall, to advantageously pick up whatever's left standing. Here, because of Violet's acceptance to one of her dream research roles at another university, the couple had to uproot themselves from San Francisco to Michigan, leaving behind Tom's promising career as a chef, and thinking that he could start afresh in a new city while his fiancee pursues her research under the slimy Winton Childs (Rhys Ifans) and his motley group of researchers.

The comedy comes from Segel for the most parts, whose Tom gets his life sucked out of his being with each passing year in Michigan, a place where his culinary skills doesn't get appreciated, and whom many thinks he's quite the moron to have left his promising and cushy job in the big city of San Francisco. And to contrast his lop sided, compromised relationship, we have Violet's sister Suzie (Alison Brie) and her marriage to Tom's friend Alex (Chris Pratt) serve as a what-if scenario, which worked pretty well, if not a tad too obvious.

Alas The Five-Year Engagement proved to be too long, like how its title alludes to, in dealing with the crises that the couple face, and in addressing the issues it set out to deal with. This doesn't do the film any favours as it stayed largely beyond its welcome, with many scenes that would make you scream for it to move along already. Repetitive at times, it started to take on a completely different life on its own when it dealt with other associated themes like timing in relationships, and the upbringing of kids as well, so much so that the entire narrative suffered from being too scattered, and the unfunny comedy being desperately juvenile in order to salvage some cheap laughs from audiences.

It would have been livelier had it been trimmed a good half hour, and keeping the focus strongly on the couple, instead of their other relationships that were inevitably played out to expectation and didn't offer anything different from a tired soap opera, leading to a very rushed finale just to close loops to end it. Granted that relationships are relatively life long especially if a transition is made to have it protected by an institution, but surely a movie doesn't need to go through the full works to mimic the somethings meandering paths taken in real life.

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