The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

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Director: Nicholas Stoller.

COMEDY

 

Producers: Judd Apatow, Rodney Rothman, Nicholas Stoller. Writers: Jason Segal, Nicholas Stoller. Camera: Javier Aguirresarobe. Music: Michael Andrews. Sets: Julie Berghoff.

Jason Segal, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Lauren Weedman, Mimi Kennedy, David Paymer, Jackie Weaver, Jim Piddock, Rhys Ifans, Mindy Kalin, Randall Park, Kevin Hart.

SYNOPSIS

Chef Tom (Segal) pops the question to his sweetheart Violet (Blunt) after they have been going steady for a year and she accepts without question. But, following a series of comic complications, the engagement stretches longer than either anticipated and makes them question how much deep their devotion is.

REVIEW

Perhaps this will be something of a rant review, but I’m allowed one every now and then.

When exactly did cultural prejudice become the norm in Hollywood rom-coms?

Obviously, its been about for sometime in the action genre, never more noticeable than when European accented (mostly British accents from mostly British actors) propounded as the token psychotic baddie in blockbusters, from Alan Rickman in Die Hard to Patrick McGoohan as a flintily megalomaniacal Edward I in Braveheart, this has been discussed by countless other film theorists and commentators.

But on reflection, there has also been a creeping sense of subtle anti-Englishness in the humble romantic comedy from across the pond. You know the type, the genial (or geriatric), bumbling or mumbling, well-spoken, probably-a-cricket-playing-gent. Posh guys in the Princess Diaries movies. Ineffectual and emasculated Ralph Fiennes in Maid in Manhattan. Effortlessly polite and proper Colin Firth in What a Girl Wants. Seemingly imbecilic Hugh Grant in…all of the few things he did stateside.

One-man hilarity juggernaut Apatow (Knocked Up, Superbad et al) doesn’t buck this trend when he steers a chuckle-strewn course to his own full-blown rom com, an admittedly laugh-out loud funny product, starring co-writer Segal.

Blunt is the female Firth then, adding to this catalogue of vaguely offensive xenophobia. The addition of her character to this narrative is slightly clunky.  She has been specifically scripted as English, despite this causing awkward moments when relatives die and the action must therefore shift across the pond in a film that is otherwise entirely American.

The writers’ seem to gleefully show English people as whiny and hysterical (Australian Weaver, doing her best scratchy English voice) or neurotically unbalanced (Brie as Blunt’s very needy sister). All of this is played out in contrast to the relaxed, right-on, crude but level-headed American characters.

Even the Welsh don’t get off  Scot free (though there are no Scottish characters here). Ifans plays a lecherous but cool University  Professor out to nail Blunt, a supercilious and conceited man who gets hung up on Welsh pronunciations.

Now to totally about face with this review. Blunt is great casting in a role that allows her to be considerably funny and quite charming throughout, belying the straight-as-a-rule parts she usually inhabits. Segal is able to probe just that bit deeper to show how depressed a man can get when he sacrifices everything for his spouse’s career.

As you would expect from an Apatow product, the whole film is belt-bustingly amusing, slickly put together and geared wholly toward American viewers. Perhaps for the less cynical English, this will be the perfect romantic and funny movie.

 

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