The Five-Year Engagement: Love on the Silver Screen
Somewhere along the way the term ‘romantic comedy’ became a poisoned appellate. Rather than being descriptive it became a nakedly cynical marketing term that denoted a saccharine vapidity, a morass of cliché and an impossible grandiosity of deed and word which may form the sentiment but are not the substance of love. Perhaps it’s that disconnect which is the problem; the somewhat-artificial distinction between romance, an aggregate of ardent gestures, and love, its more enduring and sedate progeny. The romantic comedy explicitly offers the former but reduces the latter to a promise, something assumed by a denouement which is only really preamble to a less ephemeral story. That is to say: The demonstrative romance explored in most romantic comedies is transient and inconsequential, its more significant phase anticipated but overlooked.
The Five-Year Engagement is messy, an interrogative of the fallout from the neater and more staged seductions that were played out in the cinema of its protagonists’ formative young adulthoods, and all the more enjoyable for it. It’s a heightened reality, of course, its tender moments that much more gentle and its healthy indulgence of farce absurdities that much more farcical and absurd, but the peaks and valleys of mood are borne on performances that approach an awkwardness that the truth has but which artifice either lacks or over-performs. Some of this, to be sure, comes from the incompatibility of sex, sexuality and the visceral with the impossibly English comedies-of-manners by which Richard Curtis et al. made their millions or the delicate sensibilities of the late 20th century Hollywood mainstream, but there’s also a kind of escapist fantasy in those denials.
Can you believe I actually mean it when the words come out?