Friday, June 1, 2012

The Five Year Engagement (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Five-Year Engagement 

Here again is another mature Judd Apatow produced comedy and like a tried and true tested formula for the nearly thirty set, when things might still seem a bit wobbly in Adultland, things go from bad to worse. 

But although oft-shambled ground, "The Five-Year Engagement" does not disappoint. It is nearly perfect in its intention to entertain and delight.
The now familiar Jason Segal who is tall, semi-uncoordinated and adorable---a Muppet in human form, plays Tom: a young sous-chef at an upscale San Francisco cafe.  Yes it's true Segal often plays similar roles in his films: The well meaning, half sloppy, quasi-naive shuffling guy who has a kind smile and is everybody's friend. Jason Segal has inhabited this persona before in everything from "Jeff Who Lives at Home" to "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" but he never gets old. Like Woody Allen before him, Segal has made his aura and gestures into a trademark. He is somewhere between Grover from Sesame Street and a Kafkaesque version of a young Matthew Broderick. Invariably shy, quirky and madcap with a bit of John Cleese, Segal is as instantly recognizable as a friend.
This time out, Tom is in love with Violet, a British academic (Emily Blunt). They have been dating for two years and are quite smitten with each other. Emily Blunt has a wonderful relaxed and adventurous chemistry with Segal. Her performance is breezy and bold. She recalls the plucky and risqué Kelly LaBrock in "Weird Science" (1985). 
Tom and Violet get engaged and all is fine until Violet gets a new job. The couple relocate to Michigan, but Tom hates it, due in no small part to quitting his high status job. 
What follows is a test of what two people are willing to give up in a relationship for the happiness of the other. . A subplot to this main drama is a culture clash between British and American social conventions. The  jokes are sharply drawn, pointed with a buoyancy of feeling and never crass. There are more than a few belly laughs here, not to mention the scene where Tom fakes an orgasm. A very honest and comic moment. I laughed out loud several times. The success of the film is largely because of Segal's boldness and the freedom in his large and loose body. One gets the sense that Jason Segal  is a generous actor, offering as much to Emily Blunt as he does to himself. Simply anything goes, all in the cause of holding on to love. 

If there is a drawback to "Five Year Engagement", it is merely that it seems a smidgen too formulaic. Sure they drift apart midway thru the film over a hotbed of misunderstandings once again...and again and again. But rather than let the film get stale, a very zany supporting cast from Chris Parnell (SNL) to the weirdly hairy and sluggish Brian Posehn (The Sarah Silverman Show) keeps the comedy in motion.
These Apatow-produced comedies are fun crowd pleasers, but they are also more. By using a sensitivity in humor with their steadfast illustrations of an anxious and obstacle-laden adulthood, these films show us the possibilities available in working through a monogamous relationship. There is hard work, but there is also a bouncing, almost innocent joy that comes from being with that one lucky person. 
This is the Apatow trademark often accompanied by Jason Segal's open and expressive face and it is worthy of enthusiastic recognition.

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