Moviegoers who expect another Bridesmaids from this Judd Apatow-produced comedy are in for a surprise. Some of them may be disappointed with the lack of raucousness, but I was not: The Five-Year Engagement is a strikingly original comedy with serious undertones. It dares to take its time, as it covers an unusually long time period in a constantly-changing relationship. The one constant is that its protagonists, played by Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, genuinely love each other. Not everyone will welcome the leisurely pace and meandering nature of the film, but it won me over completely. And to allay any concerns, the movie fully earns its R rating with the expected complement of raw dialogue and penis jokes.
Segel has become a modern-day everyman, and women apparently like him for just that reason: he’s the kind of guy you might actually encounter in real life. He scripted The Five-Year Engagement with his longtime writing partner Nicholas Stoller, who also directed the film. Their aim was to chronicle the ups and down of a couple who repeatedly allow clutter and circumstance to get in the way of their intended marriage. That accounts for the episodic nature of their picture, in which Segel, an up-and-coming chef in San Francisco, willingly moves to frosty Ann Arbor, Michigan so his fiancée can pursue an opportunity for graduate studies at the university. While he refuses to complain about his new lot in life, he suffers from the move and begins to lose his identity.
The film is sparked by a number of lively supporting performances by a talented cast including Chris Pratt, as Segel’s goofy culinary colleague, Alison Brie (sporting a British accent) as a good friend of Blunt’s, Rhys Ifans, Mindy Kaling, Randall Park, Mimi Kennedy, David Paymer, Jacki Weaver, Jim Piddock, and a number of other familiar performers whose comedic expertise adds greatly to the texture of the picture. What in other hands might be seen as peripheral becomes part of the organic whole here—which, I must admit, is something of a rarity in Apatow-produced movies, which depend so much on improvisation that the results resemble a crazy-quilt.