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Watching Movies: "Five-Year Engagement," "Deep Blue Sea"

By Rich Heldenfels Published: April 27, 2012

"The Five-Year Engagement" is the latest movie starring and co-written by Jason Segel, and it's a good if somewhat overlong effort. The humor is distinctly R-rated, and there's a melancholy that almost overwhelms the movie in its later stages; there were points when it felt as if the whole thing had gone sour. But there are many good things in the movie, including the lead performances by Segel and Emily Blunt, performers who generate so much likablitiy that we are willing to forgive some decidedly bad behavior.

Segel and Blunt play a couple who, as the movie begins, have been together a year and are now ready to get married. But before they can, life keeps getting in the way, especially when Blunt is offered a job in Michigan, far from their San Francisco base. Years drag on, other conflicts arise, and the audience is left to wonder if the engagement is, in fact, as far as these two will ever get.

Their story is punctuated by slapstick, confusion and considerable angst. Their performances are complemented by a cast of adept TV-comedy players, particularly from NBC"s Thursday lineup: Chris Pratt ("Parks and Recreation"), Mindy Kaling ("The Office"), Alison Brie ("Community") and Chris Parnell ("30 Rock") are on hand, along with the likes of David Paymer, Mimi Kennedy and a briefly seen Molly Shannon. (Another NBC Thursday connection: Blunt is married to "The Office's" John Krasinski.) 

But, as has happened with other Segel efforts, his interest in the many characters and creating lots of opportunities for both laughs and drama keeps the script from being as tightly controlled as it needs to be. Scenes amble. Plot lines are drawn out. Points are made and then remade; even sex scenes get redundant.

I liked the movie. I laughed a lot. It has a good handle on the core relationship. But as good an actor as Segel is, he has not yet mastered writing. I hope he will. For now, though, his movies consistent of many effective pieces held together by too-long pieces of narrative string.

(This week's video is a somewhat briefer discussion of "Five-Year Engagement.")

"The Deep Blue Sea" is a much grimmer piece, written and directed by Terence Davies from the play by Terrence Rattigan. In some respects, it is a deliberately old-fashioned melodrama, especially with a dramatic musical score that is almost obnoxiously intrusive in places. But it is an intensely emotional movie, with a fine core performance by Rachel Weisz.

Moving around in time, the movie begins with a suicide attempt by Hester Collyer (Weisz). We learn that she has left her much older, privileged husband (Simon Russell Beale) for a young pilot (Tom Hiddleston, whom you may know as Loki in "Thor" and the new "Avengers" movie). Hester has made the change for love, only to learn that life is about a great deal more than love and passion.

Weisz is wonderful in both the high and low points of Hester's live, and she is ably matched by the performances from Beale and Hiddleston, two men who are flawed but not the villains they seem at times.

Davies' direction sees the value not only in spoken words but in the silences built around them; he wants you to see the characters thinking. And it is in the slience, in what the characters do not say, that the tension is the greatest, The closing moments of the movie are bruising because of all that is left unspoken.

And the best moment in the movie belongs not to the lovers but to a landlady, played by Ann Mitchell, who explains the exact nature of love as something that goes far beyond mooning and swooning.

 

 

 

 

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