Opening 12 Jul 2012
In this comedy with a serious undertone, Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) become engaged in their hometown of San Francisco. He is a successful sous chef at fancy Birch Restaurant. She studies social psychology at the University of California/Berkeley. They celebrate their engagement in a garden party (shot on location in Glen Ellen, California) with their weird friends and weirder, but well-meaning, parents and a step-parent. Here Violet’s sister Suzie meets Tom’s best friend Alex; quick to react, they succumb to a one-night stand.
From this rose-colored beginning, things go downhill fast. Violet, after being rejected for a plum position in her university, goes to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan as one of four graduate students under the leadership of Winton (Rhys Ifans). She is the power person, churning along with goals firmly in sight. Tom, the cook with a future, now works in Zingermann’s Deli and becomes a depressed househusband and trailing spouse. He meets Bill, who seems to blossom in his role of taking care of the kids and knitting sweaters. For “man” time Bill and Tom go hunting – a new activity which Tom learns quickly. Not only the seasons, but the years fly by and marriage is still in the far distance. They could learn a lot from Alex and Suzie, who get pregnant, then married, then settled in San Francisco with two small children, while Alex enjoys a brilliant career in Tom’s old job at Birch Restaurant. So the years roll by, punctuated each year by the death of yet another grandparent who couldn’t live long enough to attend any wedding.
For this film three friends, Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller (director) and Judd Apatow, collaborated writing, acting, directing and producing. Their paths had crossed successfully in the past with such films as Forgetting Sarah Marshall or The Muppets (whose influence comes through when Violet and Suzie do a very funny Ernie and Bert imitation). Their synergy and willingness to improvise work well in funny one-liners; they create a story with a lesson to learn. Actress Emily Blunt comes from London and spoke with a British accent; her film sister Alison Brie learned the accent perfectly. They filmed on location in California and Michigan (the University of Michigan), as well as around Detroit. There was an intended contrast between the snow and sleet of northern USA and the sunshine of California, which added to the misery. Perhaps shorter would have been more effective, e.g., there are (believe it or not) way too many unnecessary sex scenes. However, the excellent cast down to the smallest role very much makes up for this liability. (Becky Tan)