RomCom Realism – THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT
THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT leaves silliness behind in search of something more.
I see a developing trend in recent “romantic comedy” entries, in which characters act less like Katherine Heigl or Ben Stiller in their respective fluff-fest mannerisms and more like the very adult and realistic characters from, say, Woody Allen‘s Annie Hall. It’s as if today’s audiences are being asked to evolve, and consider what happens once our beloved heartfelt fantasies – such as John Hughes‘ Sixteen Candles – actually end, and to watch these relationships develop after that initial doe-eyed romantic honeymoon stage. With that in mind, Nicholas Stoller‘s The Five Year Engagement (2012) succeeds in that it actually feels like it takes five years off your life – that’s a compliment. It’s both harsh and hilarious, and true to life. Co-written by Stoller and star Jason Segel, there’s less of their Forgetting Sarah Marshall silliness on display and not as much grim-ness as the duo’s 2010 Get Him to the Greek. In fact this offering seems to balance the best of both worlds: Not only do we watch a couple (played by Segel and Emily Blunt) that truly loves each other struggle with the serious ways in which a long-term commitment to a person can clash with one’s own personal commitment to one’s career, but we also get to watch two grown women have a serious discussion in Muppet voices and the ridiculousness that ensues when Sriracha is introduced (unwisely) into love play. The movie isn’t perfect – it lags in some places and feels overlong, but it more often than not hits the right notes. It made me laugh, cry and even cringe, and if all these new romantic comedies are intentionally trying to reach Annie Hall-ness, then I’ve got to say that this one is the closest to succeeding that I’ve seen so far. Watch for it!