Double Take on Marriage

Two romantic comedies currently playing locally present two different takes on the institution of marriage.

The Five-Year Engagement stars Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau, The Devil Wears Prada) as research psychologist Violet Barnes, who wants to advance her career, but doesn’t want it to be sidelined by motherhood.

Her fiancé Tom Solomon a sous-chef in a San Francisco seafood restaurant, is played by Jason Segel (Knocked Up, Bad Teacher).

Violet is hoping a prestigious teaching position at Berkley will come through for her, and is disappointed when it fails to materialize.

When she’s offered a less attractive post-doctoral fellowship at University of Michigan and reluctantly decides to accept, it means that she and her partner have to put their wedding plans on hold while they relocate to a colder clime.

Tom gives up his job for the sake of Violet’s career, but finds it hard to become employed again in Michigan, resulting in further delays to their plans.

Time stretches on, as one thing after another pushes their marriage into the distant future.

Still of Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph, Jennifer Westfeldt and Chris O’Dowd in Friends with Kids

This is where the film becomes really annoying. It’s hard to put my finger on all the reasons why I find The Five-Year Engagement such an irritating film.

Perhaps it’s because its main premise rings so false and insubstantial. Perhaps it’s because it deals in stereotypes, over and over. Perhaps it’s because its characters are essentially unbelievable.

Peer pressure to marry from their boorish friends, as well as their parents, becomes tedious and aggravating. San Francisco is portrayed as some sort of groovy paradise lost, while Michigan is stereotyped as cold and populated by hunters and morons.

There’s a particularly annoying flashback that keeps recurring, of Tom in a bunny suit, on the evening the couple first met at a New Year’s party.

Marriage becomes the uppermost obsession, and the film’s whole plot really hinges on whether they will or won’t, to the point where we don’t really care in the end what they do.

Friends With Kids gives us a more intelligent and interesting look at the possibilities. Julie Keller and JasonFryman, played by Jennifer Westfeldt (Grey’s Anatomy) and Alan Scott (Knocked Up, Step Brothers), have known each other since college. They’ve remained best friends with each, and have a good empathy together.

Julie feels that her biological clock is staring to tick, and would really like to have a child. Jason also wants to beget offspring.

The trouble is that as they look at the relationships of their married friends, they see that the onset of children soon wipes out the romantic feelings that each married couple initially had for each other.

Although Julie and Jason both want children, they don’t want to go through the disappointment of having romances destroyed by kids. Moreover, there’s no one on the horizon for either of them.

They concoct a way out of their dilemma: they’ll have sex with each other to produce a child, then share joint custody of the resultant product, while they both continue to look for Mr. or Ms. Right.

The reactions of their friends and parents, and the changes that each of them goes through as they combine parenthood and the dating game, make for a reasonably entertaining and thoughtful film.

A good supporting cast, largely drawn from the hit Bridesmaids, helps things along substantially. Besides co-starring as Julie, Westfeldt also wrote and directed the film.

The Five-Year Engagement plays at 7:00 and 9:30 p.m. at the Qwanlin Cinema. Friends With Kids plays at 6:50 and 9:00 p.m. at the Yukon Theatre. Both films are rated 14A for sexually suggestive scenes and coarse language.

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