How Much You Should Pay to See: ‘The Five-Year Engagement’
by Ester Bloom and Adam Freelander
Ester: Oh yes! Hi!
Adam: So I think we should address the fact that we did not see The Avengers.
Ester: Yes! Let’s start there. We are apparently the only people in America who did NOT see The Avengers this weekend.
Adam: Part of me feels like we did a bad thing, not seeing it. Just as Americans.
Ester: Oh, absolutely. Not to mention as loyal writers for Mike Dang, who so politely expressed his surprise at our choice. He was very gentle about it, like the sitcom father who isn’t angry at you, per se, but maybe just a little disappointed.
But when I asked him to be the authoritative father figure and command us to see The Avengers, he demurred! No, no, no, he said — whatever you want!
Adam: Mike! We both want so badly to do right by you!
Ester: Now the question is, did we profit by our choice? Would we have done better to do what Daddy Mike wanted and see The Avengers? (Even if he refused to say outright that it WAS what he wanted.)
Adam: I actually think we did good. I think I am surprised more people haven’t gone to see the movie we saw.
Ester: I think we did good too. I mean, what can you ask for from a theatrical experience, really? We laughed. I cried.
Adam: I should note that it has done very, very badly at the box office.
Ester: Sank like a stone.
Like a Titanic stone, even
Adam: When people have talked about “counterprogramming” for the big summer movies, they’ve been talking a lot about Think Like a Man and that old people movie coming out. And this strikes me as, at the very least, a movie more people should be talking about.
Ester: It’s funny, because Five-Year Engagement is so very different from The Avengers. For one, it’s realistic — so realistic, in fact, that it’s based on a true story. Unfortunately realistic also means kind of complicated, and I understand how people could be put off by that
Adam: One thing I said to you when we were walking to the subway was that I don’t think I know anyone who would see this movie and WOULDN’T feel like it hit really close to home. Which may say more about where we are in our lives, but.
Ester: Yes, that is very true. It is about people who are around 30, who are trying to decide what to prioritize in their lives: work, love, family…
Adam: I was a little impressed with how it is a movie about REAL DECISIONS.
Ester: Very much so. And money! Although that’s sort of subtextual.
Adam: Well, it may be sort of a rorschach in that sense.
Ester: Like, the characters are not just magazine editors or architects, like most rom-com characters. They have to make a living, both of them, which is partly why they have Ambitions, and that leads to the Drama.
(Movie architects are the best. I have seen so many movies featuring Architects and I still have no idea what an architect actually does, day-to-day.)
Adam: Haha, it’s true that there are no architects in this movie, a major departure for the genre.
Ester: It is such a vague, sexy-seeming profession! Instead we have Restaurant Chef and Academic. Which feels, again, realistic. As the movie begins, the Chef is happily employed in San Francisco, and the Academic is trying to get a job at Berkeley. She does not get the job! So she has to move to Michigan for a Post-Doc. (Can you even remember the last time anyone said the words “Post-Doc” in a mainstream movie?) They are both dealing with the constraints of a recession and a poor economy.
Adam: And also like, trying to be good to each other. A lot of the conflict in this movie arises from how hard it is for the two of them to do right by each other.
I feel like usually in movies, relationship problems arise from stupid misunderstandings. She saw the guy hugging his sister and now she thinks he’s cheating on her!!!
Ester: Right, exactly. Whereas here, they are each weighing their responsibilities to each other and to themselves. Is it okay to be selfish in a relationship? How selfish? For how long? etc.
Adam: I mean, I don’t want to belabor the point, and I also don’t mean to sound like I’ve never seen a movie, but I was really struck by how many people in my own life this movie made me think of.
Ester: Would you like to get more specific?
Gossip is fun! And we could blank out the names.
Adam: Oh, I just meant my friends Trudy Campbell and Kelly Kapoor.
Ester: Oh yes, of course. Maybe part of the reason this movie affected me (again: I cried for about fifteen minutes in the middle of it, and I’m not sure how much I can blame stupid pregnancy hormones, since I did NOT cry during “Titanic”) is that it seemed like all the actors in this film could probably relate to the subject matter more than usual.
Adam: Oh interesting! I think you are probably right. But also, and this doesn’t spoil too much, but there are two characters who start off the movie as sort of fuckups, and then end up being the mature family examples. They sort of “age past” the main characters. I related to that a lot, or to that fear I guess.
Ester: They are definitely more “successful,” by mainstream standards, and that’s not how I assumed their arc would go. Which fear did you relate to, though?
Adam: The fear of like, while you are trying to figure out your own life, the loveable fuckup sidekicks in your life are going to figure it all out and just do it better. In another movie, that’d be played for laughs. “The old goofball found a wife!!!!”
Ester: Ha! It is always an interesting question: Are you someone else’s loveable fuckup sidekick? Would you know if you were? We all like to think we’re the protagonists in our own stories …
Adam: Yeah, I definitely like to pretend differently, but I surely am all my friends’ loveable fuckup sidekick. And I resent being held to the standards of the sidekicks in this movie!!!!
But you see what’s going on here. This movie made me FEEL FEELINGS. And you too, for “fifteen minutes in the middle” (though actually more).
Ester: How do you know?? I was crying very very quietly. Yes, this is the kind of movie that makes you feel your feelings. Before we address how much that experience is worth though, I would like to address two complaints:
1) That it was basically like watching a season’s worth of a sitcom crammed into one movie — i.e., it was episodic, kind of strangely paced, and long for a comedy. 2) Every ethnic character was a terrible stereotype. This movie was a like a cautionary tale about trying to inject diversity into films!
Adam: OK, #2 first. The graduate study group is a little ill-conceived, I agree. I was particularly sad seeing Randall Park, a really funny guy, play an accented character named “Ming.”
Ester: Who is supposed to be really talented & bright! But all we see him do is a crazy-ass experiment involving blood and chicken feathers. And the black guy is singularly obsessed with masturbation (??).
Mindy Kaling is Mindy Kaling. Fun, but perhaps not entirely believable as a PhD.
Adam: Mindy Kaling is Mindy Kaling, which is technically not an ethnic stereotype, though I’m concerned it soon will be.
Ester: The lesbian chef was funny, at least. But overall, this movie was like the opposite of “Girls” — diversity up the wazoo, even in the snowy backwoods of Michigan — and yet it was done so badly I wished everyone had been white.
Adam: “I wished everyone had been white.” — Ester Bloom, cultural critic
Ester: Hey, people would be a lot less hard on the Merchant of Venice if Shylock had just been another British Protestant dude.
Adam: We keep bringing it back to Jews! Jason Siegel’s character in this movie is apparently Jewish. I always thought he was the Apatow guy who ISN’T coded as Jewish.
I do not know why I thought that.
Ester: Well, here his last name was Solomon. He made a cute Jew. He made a cute everything, actually — I really liked him here. Emily Blunt was good too! I believed in them as a couple. That does not happen that often. That is worth a couple of dollars, at least.
Adam: Definitely the first time I really liked Emily Blunt. Who, I just learned from Wikipedia, is 8 days younger than I am.
Ester: She was so good in Devil Wears Prada! What are you talking about?
Adam: She’s great but I didn’t LIKE her!
Ester: OK WHATEVER. Holy shit, she’s married to John Krasinski. They are going to have such cute funny babies.
Adam: Yeah ok whatever, you felt sympathetic towards the most evil character in that movie, good job.
Ester: I have empathy. It’s what separates me from the psychopaths.
Adam: Anyway about your “episodic” complaint, you are right. I read the New Yorker review you mentioned, and he compares this to Funny People, which is right on.
Ester: So yes, let us get to it: Largely we liked this movie, though we agree that it used ethnic characters in a troubling way and was kind of bumbling and episodic, even if in an endearing way. It made Adam scared and reflective about his life choices, and it made Ester cry for a while.
How much was it worth overall? We paid $7 per ticket.
Adam: Yeah, which I still can’t believe. This column is rapidly turning into an advertisement for Cobble Hill Cinemas, but SERIOUSLY.
Ester: Seriously. If you are in Brooklyn, you should never see a movie anyplace else. Even if you’re in New Jersey, you should drive into Brooklyn, because the theater is so comfy, cozy, adorable, retro, and cheap. Audiences are even well-behaved. No texting; no talking. A hilarious movie theater intro reminds us (to a score of electronic music) to turn off our beepers.
Adam: I will say that this movie is worth a full-price ticket. So, $28.
Or $12, whatever.
Ester: I would say it was worth $7 or $8 for sure, but I wouldn’t go above $10.
Adam: I am down with this movie. I think it tries to tackle serious things and it doesn’t always succeed but sometimes it does, and it’s really funny and extremely sweet.
“This movie has something for everyone!! (who is 29.)”
Ester: That is an important point.
OK, I’ll say $10. It gets a dollar bonus for the scene where Alison Brie and Emily Blunt fight using voices from “Sesame Street” (Brie is Elmo, Blunt is Cookie Monster). And another for its ambition.
Adam: And we should encourage that! I hope this movie’s financial failure doesn’t cause Nicholas Stoller to make a fart movie next.
Ester: Here here!
Or is it “Hear hear”? I’ve never been sure.
Adam: There’s literally no way of knowing.
Ester: And on that note, thanks, Adam! This was fun. Next time we’ll see The Avengers, because we don’t want to make Daddy Mike cry.
CONSENSUS: You should pay between $10 and $12 to see “The Five-Year Engagement”. Maybe add another dollar if you are exactly 29 years old?
Previously: Titanic 3-D
Adam Freelander is not 100% on board with this “Daddy Mike” thing, though not for lack of respect for Mike. It just feels a little “Tobias Fünke” for his taste. Follow him @adamplease.