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Director Nicholas Stoller's cinematic style doesn't stick in the brain, save the gotcha! moments he's so fond of – Jason Segel going full monty in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, say, or Jonah Hill's adrenaline-shot resurrection in Get Him to the Greek. But he and Segel, his frequent co-scripter, are the rare crafters of commercial comedy who seem as much interested, if not more, in feelings as in action. Stoller and Segel don't shy away from rational, relatable adults, which may be an unsexy selling point for a romantic comedy, but that attention to authenticity elevates the likable, low-stakes The Five-Year Engagement.
Toning down the dopeyness so common to his onscreen personas, Segel plays San Francisco chef Tom, who puts his own career on the back burner to follow fiancée Violet (Blunt) to Michigan so she can pursue graduate work in psychology. Tom's stuck slopping together sandwiches in a college deli, his sense of self-worth eroding, while Violet worries if she's been selfish for seeking her own professional fulfillment. Their plans for marriage keep getting postponed, even as grandparents drop like flies and Violet's own sister, Suzie (Brie, working a deliciously silly British accent), gallops through the domestic steeplechase of marriage and babies. Everyone else is moving forward while Tom and Violet are stuck in the mud of competing interests and noncommunication, and that stagnancy is impetus not just for comedy but an unfussy pathos, too.