Thursday, 19 July 2012

Film Review: 20 July

Emily Blunt, Rhys Ifans and Jason Segal in a VERY long engagement

Written by Barry Norman


barry-normanBWInteresting how one's perception of actors can change. I first became aware of Emily Blunt in The Devil Wears Prada wherein, as Meryl Streep's assistant, she had unbecoming reddish hair and not very good make-up. She seemed extremely promising but rather plain.

Since then I have seen her in several films and found her increasingly talented and more beautiful. Maybe she was made to look that way in The Devil Wears Prada so as not to be prettier than the heroine, Anne Hathaway.

Similarly with Rhys Ifans. As Hugh Grant's impossible flatmate in Notting Hill, he irritated the hell out of me. But after seeing him lately in Anonymous and now The Five-Year Engagement, I've become a fan.

Both he and Blunt are impressive in a film which is not, itself, all that impressive. Well, it is in parts but in other parts, particularly the sagging middle bit, it's something of a clunker.

Blunt plays a would-be academic living in San Francisco with her fiancé, talented chef Jason Segel. But their wedding is postponed when she is offered a postgrad course at the University of Michigan and he selflessly throws up the chance of a considerable promotion to go with her.

Meanwhile, Blunt's sister, Alison Brie, has fallen pregnant by Segel's best friend and fellow chef, Chris Pratt, and married him.

At university, Blunt thrives under the tutorship of charismatic Professor Rhys Ifans but – Michigan apparently existing in the culinary Dark Ages – the best job Segel can find is making sandwiches. She is happy but he is not, though he pretends to be.

Time passes – still no wedding – and he goes native, grows a beard and hunts and kills things.

Matters come to a head when, livid that Ifans has kissed Blunt, Segel has a quick fling with another (female) chef and then – this is where it becomes really clunky – spends the night, drunk and trouserless, roaming the icebound woods, thereby losing an extremity to frostbite. (No – not that extremity; if that bit had gone we'd have been into an entirely different film.)

Anyway, the couple part; Blunt moves in with Ifans while Segel returns to San Francisco, takes up with a nymphomaniac bimbo and more time passes. Can our lovers be reunited? Well, this being a romantic comedy, what do you think?

The trouble is that director and co-writer Nicholas Stoller seeks to have it all – to appeal to a sophisticated, adult audience while throwing in illogical farce, presumably to attract teenagers, and this is an uncomfortable mix.

The film's strongest appeal is the cast. Blunt, I think, is the best young actress around and Segel is likeable, too. Apart from anything else, it's pleasing to encounter a romantic hero who is not a bodybuilder, but overweight and out of shape.

In addition Ifans, Brie and Pratt give the script better service than it deserves so the result is an engaging enough movie, but one that would have been much sharper if they'd cut out 20 minutes of superfluous dross.

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