“The Five-Year Engagement”: Trivial Fare Offers Flashes of Honesty

The Five-Year Engagement is as comfy and cute as the bunny costume Tom (Jason Segel, who co-scripted with director Nicholas Stoller) wears at the New Year's Eve party where he first meets Violet (Emily Blunt). The movie opens here in San Francisco, on their first anniversary, the night Tom proposes. They postpone the wedding so that they can get settled at the University of Michigan, where Violet has just been accepted to do postdoc research — an adjustment period that involves lame gags with snow and the lack of classy restos worthy of sous-chef Tom's skills. While he makes reubens at Zingerman's deli, Violet thrives under the academic mentorship of Welsh charmer Winton (Rhys Ifans). When her postdoc is extended, Tom's deepening misery at being stuck in the Wolverine State culminates in extracurricular drunken kisses, an amputated big toe, and the couple's decision to call it quits — with about 45 minutes to fill before the preordained conclusion. Occasionally, the dialogue in The Five-Year Engagement might sound like something an adult audience member has once thought or uttered. “I wanna be alone with you here,” Tom pouts to Violet after they've had a fight, and she gets out of bed to respect his request for momentary solitude. This fleeting acknowledgment of the come-here/go-away dynamic of romantic relationships serves as the film's most insightful look at attachment at any cost. The rest is much like the doughnuts that Violet uses as a key prop in a research experiment: stale and not good for you.

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