Screenwriters Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s movie “The Five-Year Engagement” is as much about wedding planning as it is about how plans don’t always work out the way we expect, though the movie itself turns out quite predictably.
For Tom (Jason Segel), things don’t go according to plan right from the start. He and Violet (Emily Blunt) have been dating for a year when they head to a New Year’s Eve party. Violet keeps asking Tom what’s wrong and says that he is acting funny. He says everything is fine and then insists on stopping by the restaurant where he works to pick up some receipts. He is so squirrelly that Violet won’t let up so he finally pulls over to the side of the road and pulls a small box out of his pocket.
Violet quickly realizes that she has ruined his proposal plans so she tells him to go through with it anyway and she will act surprised. Tom’s friend and fellow chef Alex (Chris Pratt) helps out with the setup – which includes a candlelit dinner for two and champagne on the terrace of the restaurant. But even as Tom begins his actual proposal, the restaurant’s chef comes out to yell at him for calling in sick. It seems to be a sign of things to come.
Violet and Tom have an engagement party with their family and close friends. Tom’s parents are ecstatic for him, while Violet’s mother, who is divorced, is less enthusiastic. She is still pining for Violet’s father, who has remarried a much younger woman. One thing is clear from the families, however: They want a quick wedding so that all the grandparents who are still alive will be able to attend.
Just as the couple is getting close to making a decision on a date and location, Violet gets a rejection letter from Berkeley. She does get accepted to the University of Michigan.
Tom doesn’t want to go to Michigan, but since Violet says it is only for a couple years he agrees to leave a job he loves to head east. It becomes a lot more to bear when he learns from his boss that she was about to name him head chef at a new restaurant.
Once in Michigan, Violet thrives with a team of post-doctorate social psychology students and their professor, Winton Childs (Rhys Ifans.) Violet quickly comes up with a study about adults’ ability to postpone instant gratification for a greater reward in the future – based on whether a group of test subjects can pass on a box of stale donuts with the promise that fresh donuts will arrive in half an hour.
Tom has less luck as he scours the town looking for a job as a chef. Not only are chef jobs not open, but there aren’t even any jobs working in the kitchen of most restaurants in town. He ends up making sandwiches at a deli. His only companions are a weird guy from the deli and another faculty husband, who knits sweaters and enjoys deer hunting.
After a few months in Michigan, Tom takes over the wedding planning on Violet’s behalf. He, Tarquin (Brian Posehn), and Bill (Chris Parnell) look at flowers, taste cake and check out venues. But things are derailed when Violet announces that the university received a grant that will allow her to stay for a few more years – and that it might eventually lead to an assistance professor position.
Tom has been miserable for the whole time they’ve been in Michigan, with the only hope for him that it was for a limited time. As Violet throws herself into her research, Tom regresses into spending all his free time hunting deer and creating uses for his catch. Tom has gotten so weird that Alex doesn’t trust him to babysit his daughter – and Alex was never the responsible one of the two.
Tom and Violet overcome a few more obstacles before they have to decide if they are perfect enough for each other – Violet wants things to be 100 percent perfect and she doesn’t want to compromise. The movie has some funny moments in it, especially as I have just delved into wedding planning myself, but it also has some touching moments as the couple struggles with what they are willing to compromise and whether it is worth it to stay together.
Emily Blunt is a good foil to Jason Segel, who always seems a bit goofy, and the supporting cast is mostly funny in the right places.