Archive for September, 2012

The Five-Year Engagement (TheByteScene Review)

The Five-Year Engagement

3 Poorly-Knit-Hunting-Sweaters out of 4

Jason Segel plays something of a blithering man child and Emily Blunt plays a quirky but thoroughly enjoyable Brit. They’re to be married after having spent only a year dating, but they seem to be quite adamant on their decision and their love for one another. Their respective families are filled with all manners of eccentricity and lunacy, and for some reason everyone wants the couple to wed before the grandparents are dead – after all, Grandpa Baba doesn’t have much time left on this planet and neither does Grandpa Harold. Of course, as the title of the film would suggest, the couple spends a significant amount of time planning the wedding, while spending almost no time actually getting married.

Soon, the sister (played deliciously by Allison Brie) and best friend (another blithering man child, but one that’s slightly more grounded – played by Chris Pratt) have been wed, they’re having kids, the original couple moves because of Violet’s (Blunt’s character) job in Michigan, and the traditional romantic comedy tropes and cliche’s begin to fall into place. The commitment drama ensues, the actual wedded couple – who shouldn’t even be together in the first place – are dolling out relationship advice, and everyone’s lives seem to be moving forward except for Violet and Tom’s (Segel’s character).

I’ve noticed a recent trend in romantic comedies where the leading man is no longer a charming, slightly aloof, eccentric not-so-everyman played by Hugh Grant, but a smarmy infant stuck in that phase right between college graduation and adulthood. In a way, the latter is far more relatable than the former, and it’s unsurprising that more humour can be gathered from Jason Segel or Chris Pratt than from Hugh Grant or Colin Firth. Frankly, I’ve enjoyed the transition – Judd Apatow, who returns to produce this Nicholas Stoller directed romance, has the uncanny ability to give the real everymen far more interesting lives than is possible, all while simultaneously allowing the audience to root for them in turn. Tom is a chef who works for a secretly homophobic boss at a top restaurant in San Francisco, but he still chooses to attend a Superhero-themed New Year’s party as the entirely fictional Superbunny. He literally shows up in a pink bunny costume – including the hood – with blue tape forming words across his furry stomach.

It’s adorable in a childlike way; his innocence is startling, believable, and entirely appropriate, and there are few moments where we can’t relate.

Interestingly enough, romantic comedies of late haven’t gotten over the primordial desire to place stunningly attractive actresses in the leading female role; if they also happen to be stunningly talented, like Emily Blunt, it doesn’t hurt either. Blunt’s role as Violet serves as the antithesis to Segel’s Tom; we’re told this by seeing her as Princess Diana – who needs no superpowers, one might add. She drinks wine while he drinks beer, she’s extremely work oriented willing to travel from warm and kind San Francisco to cold and blunt Michigan to get work as a post-doctorate student. Her words are well formed and well thought out, her actions are logical and rational, and her demeanour is modern and very stylish. Compare this to Tom, who ends up growing a beard and has days where he is incapable of removing his Superbunny costume, and one recognizes that Violet might be too good for Tom. Except that we see the two on an almost equal footing the entire time; there isn’t a scene where one can argue one character over the other, which is where the film truly finds its strength.

Instead of placing either the male or female leads on a pedestal and asking us to worship one and condemn the other, we’re asked to look at both of their perspectives. We’re asked to understand that they love one another, and that they aren’t perfect for one another in any way, shape, or form. Much like the relationships in our own lives, we’re asked to accept that there might never be a cure-all answer to their problems, but through openness, acceptance, and genuine love they’ll be able to get through whatever struggles they may come across. The film makes no habit of tossing around any other advice; all it really seems to say is that relationships are difficult, marriage is difficult, and the only real way to develop a strong and healthy relationship is by accepting that things may never be perfect.

Personally, I’m enjoying the direction romantic comedies are taking. There’s a very real human quality that exists in these characters, and while the endings might be over the top for some viewers, it’s still entirely worth experiencing; ironically, a lot like an actual relationship.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK