romantic comedies

A Five-Year Engagement Breakdown for the Rom-Com Purists

Five Year Engagement Photo: Glen Wilson/Universal Pictures

Tomorrow, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller — the braintrust who brought you The Muppets, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Jason Segel’s onscreen penis — will release their first proper romantic comedy, The Five-Year Engagement. Stoller himself told Vulture that the rom-com is his favorite type of movie and that he’s well versed in the classics: “I did a very nerdy thing and watched Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally, Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment, and graphed them out on my computer to see exactly scene-by-scene what was happening.” We do that all the time! In fact, as is established by now, Vulture very much prefers to evaluate a rom-com in terms of its aww moments, its goofy montages, and all the other well-established arcs and tropes that define the genre. So! Since the director already made a graph, we went with a tried-and-true checklist to see how Five-Year satisfies your very specific rom-com needs. Our findings (with mild spoilers, be warned), below:

Written and directed by the team who brought you Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel). Starring Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, The Jane Austen Book Club, and The Young Victoria, which is not so much com but is very heavily rom); Chris Pratt (Bride Wars, What’s Your Number?); Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill); Kevin Hart (Think Like a Man, Fool’s Gold); Mindy Kaling (No Strings Attached, noted rom-com expert)

Rom-Com Subgenre
Relationship Breakdown (See: The Break-Up, Sex and the City), with a heavy dose of Wedding Anxiety (Bride Wars, Runaway Bride), and a helping of Mismatched But Crazy-in-Love Friends (Wedding Crashers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up)

Barrier … to Love
She has a dream job in Michigan … but he wants to move back to San Francisco!
He wants to plan their wedding … but she wants to plan more meetings with her new boss!
He grows a disgusting beard and eats stale doughnuts … and she doesn’t like it!
They both commit to serious(ish) relationships … but not with each other!

Welcome Clichés
Botched-but-adorable proposal scene
Awkward speeches at weddings or engagement parties (in this case, a full slideshow of the groom’s exes, with new lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire”)
Ill-advised shotgun marriage that turns out to be True Love
Handsome, Older Other Man with exotic accent
Multiple references to The Notebook
Perfectly batty, horrible new girlfriend (played by Dakota Johnson)

Unwelcome Clichés
Good-times montage (relying almost entirely on brunch)
Too-cute-for-real-life pajamas
Admission of infidelity at the worst possible moment
Bangs as a symbol of life change
Food trucks

Food Product That Is Also a Metaphor
Doughnut, which is used in a psychology test but also at home, in the Test of Love

High-Stakes Emotional Conversation Held in Less Than Ideal Circumstances
Emily Blunt and Alison Brie, who discuss the future of Blunt’s relationship in Cookie Monster and Elmo voices, to entertain Brie’s kids

Embarrassing Jason Segel Pantsless Moment
At Zingerman’s, and in the woods outside Ann Arbor

Romantic Crescendo Locations
Rooftop with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge
A snow bank
A bakery
Her childhood bedroom (which is covered with Wham! posters)
A park

Romance/Comedy ratio

Tears Jerked
1, during a particularly honest hospital scene

Place on Rom-Com Quality Continuum
Technically, a majority of The Five-Year Engagement is about a couple falling out of love, so it’s closer to a relationship drama than a rom-com, if you’re going by plot alone. But the movie is also written by Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel, which means it is genuinely funny, with a weird deli meat gag or Chris Pratt monologue to counter every joke about cake-tasting. Actual laughter bumps Five-Year into the Totally Respectable, Would Watch Them on Cable rom-com leagues, but we have to dock a few points for the fact that a breakup is pretty centrally involved. So we’ll put Five-Year right alongside Definitely, Maybe, and just below 27 Dresses — enjoyable, but perhaps not destined for the canon.

A Five-Year Engagement Rom-Com Breakdown