The Five-Year Engagement

The Five-Year Engagement

Runtime 122 minutes.
OK for children.

From l, Emily Blunt and Jason Segel in “The Five-Year Engagement.”

“OK for children.” Who woulda thought that a film by smutmeister Judd Apatow, who favors crudity, genital jokes, and bathroom humor, would make a movie that was “OK for children?” Who woulda linked classy Emily Blunt with an Apatow movie? But that’s what we have here. Apatow showed in Funny People (2008) that he can do work that doesn’t wallow in the gutter. But Funny People didn’t do that well at the box office, so Judd, being a good businessman, has generally stayed where the money is. Even though this has an “R” rating due to some raunchy language, that’s a minor part of the film. It would be even better had Judd realized that this was a good story that would be nice for children to see because it emphasizes commitment and kept the smutty language out of it. There’s no female nudity and the love scenes keep Blunt clothed or at least covered up. Unfortunately, there are a few unfortunate scenes of Segel’s bare bottom that add nothing to the film.

Blunt shines once again in this sweet love story (written by costar Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, who directed) about, well, an engagement that lasts five years. This is a film of surprising depth, getting into the nitty gritty of a relationship, that seems realistic.

It’s never adequately explained why Violet Barnes (Blunt) and Tom Solomon (Segel) choose to live together instead of getting married when their career opportunities diverge, but that’s a clumsy plot device that one must overlook to get into the spirit of the film.

Chris Pratt gives an engaging performance as Tom’s best friend, Alex Eilhauer (if it was explained why Tom and Alex have different last names, I missed it), who is described as not too bright, but who seemed plenty savvy to me. His appearances livened the film when it was dragging. Alison Brie gives a fine performance as Violet’s sister and Alex’s wife, Suzie, although she doesn’t appear in that many scenes.

The other negative of the film for me, other than why they just didn’t get married in the first place, was that it’s far too long. I thought it would never end. But that did give me extra time to watch Blunt, and that’s always a treat.

Elles

Runtime 96 minutes.
Not for children.

Juliette Binoche in “Elles.”

Straight-laced Anne (Juliette Binoche) finds herself corrupted by the two prostitutes, Charlotte (Anaïs Demoustier) and Alicja (Joanna Kulig), about whom she is writing an article in this NC-17 rated film. It examines why some beautiful young women become prostitutes and shatters feminist images about who is exploiting whom. Says writer/director Malgoska Szumowska,

“Before the start of the shoot, I wanted to meet some young female prostitutes. In Poland, I knew from reading the papers that many young female students are forced to sleep with the owners of the rooms they live in. The account of one young girl who was both beautiful and elegant made a great impression on me. From the start of the interview, she only talked about sex, what she did and what she liked to do. To be honest, I was shocked. Shocked by the fact that a girl this pretty and intelligent derived pleasure from sleeping with men for money. And it wasn’t only to meet vital needs such as food and accommodation, but also for pleasure and to have a more pleasant life. In fact, it was very different from the fantasy that most people have of prostitution.”

The film is as much about Anne, her relationship with her family, and her moral slide as it is about the prostitutes themselves. Unfortunately, Szumowska sprinkles the film with mundane scenes of Anne’s everyday life like bringing home groceries and dealing with problems with her refrigerator and blender that slow the pace considerably.

Counter-balancing this is an enchanting performance by Demoustier, which is worth the price of admission by itself. She is a huge star aborning.

As to Kulig, Szumowska says, “She wanted to be in the film so badly that she lied to me when I asked her if she could speak French. When I realized it wasn’t true, I thought she was very sassy. And in the end, in the film, she does speak French!”

In addition to the humdrum scenes of Anne’s ordinary life, the film is marred by lots of product placements, especially for Apple Computer (the King of Product Placement) and Mercedes Benz.

Although this is not hard core, it does contain female nudity and fairly specific scenes of sexual activity. In French and Polish.

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