January 31, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 16°F


Engaging comedy defies gender roles

“How I Met Your Mother” star Jason Segel finds his comedic better half in the new romantic comedy “The Five-Year Engagement.”

Segel plays Tom, who is engaged to Violet (Emily Blunt). Shortly after Tom proposes, Violet is accepted to the University of Michigan to earn her master’s degree in psychology, and Tom agrees to leave his career as an up-and-coming sous chef in San Francisco, to be with her. While she originally plans to spend only two years in Michigan, Violet succeeds in her program and is constantly invited to continue her education with the school. Tom, on the other hand, struggles to find work and spends his time in a small local café for little pay. The two work to plan their wedding despite constant setbacks in a thoughtful comedy that shines with well-scripted laughs but overstays its welcome in its just-longer-than-two-hour runtime.

Segel co-wrote the script with director Nicholas Stoller. While Segel and Stoller spent the better part of the last decade writing “The Muppets,” they transition well into the more adult topics. This newfound maturity is especially notable in the film’s portrayal of gender roles as Violet’s feminism pushes her to reject following in her mother’s footsteps and putting her intended husband’s career first. Similarly, Tom tries to cope with his macho friends who taunt him for following behind his work-minded fiancee. While Violet represents a strong female figure, she does not fully embrace the typical stereotype of a hard-hitting, emasculating female breadwinner. The couple is instead portrayed as one battling for each other’s happiness, regardless of who brings home the bacon.

Contrasting Violet’s open opposition to her mother’s “husband-first” mentality is Suzie (Allison Brie), Violet’s party-girl, boy-crazy sister. Though Suzie claims to loathe Tom’s pompous San Francisco assistant Alex (Chris Pratt), the two get hot and heavy at the engagement party and end up with child — a blessing in disguise for young Suzie, who settles easily in her roles as a mother. This quiet but important addition shows that women can be happy in more traditional roles and shouldn’t be told (or shown) otherwise — an idea that is often neglected by Hollywood.

With a few notable exceptions, “The Five-Year Engagement” avoids most of the typical Hollywood romantic comedy clichés. Tom and Violet are hopeless romantics, which is why they are willing to tough it out through the series of hurdles thrown at their relationship. Rather than showing the duo’s courtship and subsequent struggle, the script simply skips the typical Hollywood romantic comedy falling in love bit and focuses on how these “crazy kids” work to maintain the magic. By doing this, Segel and Stoller defy expectations and introduce new and welcome material to the genre.

Despite its overall quality, the film overstays its welcome. Running more than two hours, the film hands the couple more obstacles than necessary to prove its point — these guys belong together. However, just like Tom and Violet’s extended engagement, this film is worth waiting through.


“The Five-Year Engagement” was co-written and directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Jason Segel.