Better Late Than Never: The Five-Year Engagement

I love the way she’s looking at him.

Here we are with the latest edition of the better late than never series. I saw this movie in theaters back when it was released in March and had pretty high expectations for it. Something happened during the film that left me disappointed and for that I had to say that at that time the film let me down. The film was recently released on DVD and upon second viewing, I can say that it hit the spot much better the second time around. In short, despite its many flaws, I still loved it.

The movie is about a couple, Tom and Violet, who gets engaged right, in fact, it happens right at the start of the film. They start off living in the bay area and pretty soon into the movie, Tom quits his chef job at a fancy San Francisco restaurant and decides to support Violet as they move to Michigan. There are many ups and downs, and as evidenced by the title, their engagement goes on much longer than the two expected.

Now before I get into the parts that I loved, let me get into the parts that I feel disappointed me the most. This movie has been out for a couple months so people who hate spoilers be aware, I will be discussing everything. First off, I just hated the character of Winton, the professor Violet works with at the University of Michigan. As soon as the character is introduced something just felt wrong about him. You just felt like he had other motives and had to wonder why Violet would fall for this shady character. Yes, he had that distinguished professor thing going, but surely Violet could see right through that right? Well, initially she did but then the first signs of real trouble between her and Tom, and well we’re are taken right into a drunken kiss between Violet and her professor, I had to grimace.

Eventually, Tom and Violet completely break off their relationship and pretty much five minutes later, we see Violet and Winton become a couple enjoying the finer things in life at Winton’s cabin. This was completely realistic mind you, but completely took me out of the film. I just hated it. Perhaps that has to do more with me and double standards than anything else, but regardless of that, it’s how I felt. I bring up the double standards because when it came to Tom and his relationship with the younger woman, I really felt like that was no big deal. That relationship was pretty much just a physical one and as I said I felt impartial to it, while Violet and Winton becoming a couple was the worst thing that could happen. This has happened to me on several films, Chasing Amy being the most notable one (a film that will perhaps one day join this series). Upon second viewing I was able to deal with the pairing and accept it, and more importantly, puts me in Tom’s shoes and makes me feel that pain and disgust.

So what did I love about the film? Well, I pretty much loved everything about it. It’s such a beautifully shot film, with great scenic shots of San Francisco and Michigan. Also, I’m a huge Jason Segal and Emily Blunt fan so the pairing of the two works fantastically with the two actors sharing great chemistry, being able to swiftly go from comedy to drama in the blink of an eye. It almost makes you forget the debacle that was Gulliver’s Travels where the two also played opposite of each other. Alison Brie, well really, what’s not to like. Here, she masters the English accent playing Emily Blunt’s little sister. I totally bought it and could see the two as actual (stunning) sisters. Now Chris Pratt, while generally likeable, has some moments where I was pretty much on the other side of the fence. He’s a good enough guy and friend in the film, his journey with Brie’s character as the two have a beautiful wedding and start popping out kids in what starts out as a one-night stand, is one of the highlights of the film, but his jokes are more miss than hit and when he generally is there only to provide the comic relief, well then one would say his character doesn’t really work. There’s also a scene where Pratt and Brie visit Segal and Blunt in Michigan, bringing along their daughter and in short, the daughter ends up wounding Blunt’s character. Pratt then goes on a tirade towards Segal’s character that pretty much turned me against him. Sure, Segal’s character by that point was in “I’m losing it and out of it mode” but Pratt’s rant came off making him look worse than it did Segal. Maybe it was the delivery, I’m not really sure.

There is such a sweetness to the relationship between Tom and Violet that is really the heart of the film. The two have such great comic timing and are able to be so personal and intimate when the film calls for it. The scene where they first meet is shown early on as a flashback and is called back on a few times in the film, and it is such a beautiful moment where the two just realize there is something special between them. Also, I’m a sucker for any scenes in movies where the couple are in laying in bed together and just talking (see films like Eternal Sunshine and Like Crazy). Well, this one also has some great moments like that, though of course it’s not always positive which I feel makes it feel more real.

I love the small scene where they are broken up and in separate relationships and Violet calls up Tom on her birthday. Even though the two are broken up, their chemistry is still so evident and she’s almost glowing while talking to him, perhaps realizing how empty her current relationship is. Once again, the conversation soon turns hostile but again, that’s true life.

Violet and Winton naturally and not too soon break up, and she’s finally able to see how much of an asshole he was all along. Tom also breaks up with his girlfriend and decided to travel to England to see Violet and pay respects to Violet’s final deceased grandparent. The two reconcile pretty easily, but it’s certainly not cheap and feels rather natural. We then get another proposal which pretty much is a flip on the proposal that starts off the film, this time with Violet proposing. What follows is a quick and beautiful wedding where the two finally become man and wife. It’s a scene where you can’t help but smile, as I’ve mentioned there are a bunch of moments like that in this film.

For its wacky hi-jinks, there are still real moments of honesty and at its core, it’s a film with tender sweetness and with real heart. I have to say, on the second viewing it certainly won me over and it will be a film that I will be revisiting many, many times. It is one of my favorite films of the year, it took me a while to realize that, but better late than never.

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