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Five-Year Engagement fights for space alongside Avengers

By Arthur J Pais
April 27, 2012 13:37 IST
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A scene from Five Year EngagementThe lines for the eagerly awaited The Avengers will be very long, and the May 4 US release could gross as much as $150 million in its first weekend in North America alone.

But a number of well deserving smaller movies being released in the US around the same time as The Avengers are also expected to do pleasing though not earth-shattering business.

Among them is The Five-Year Engagement, starring Emily Blunt and Jason Segel, which is expected to be the breakthrough film for its co-writer and director, Nicholas Stoller.

Stoller's previous films were Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Take Me to the Geeks. The new film has abundant number of good laughs, interesting conflict and a sweet resolution to make it a stand-apart film from the special effects-driven summer behemoths.

The Five-Year Engagement, a Universal release which opens April 27 across North America and a few foreign territories, follows a chef (Segel) and his psychology-student fiancée (Blunt), who is accepted to the University of Michigan, necessitating their move to Ann Arbor from a big city. Unable to find a job he loves,. Segel's character takes up hunting, taxidermy, and grows out his facial hair. But is all this all right for his fiancée?

Box office insiders expect the film to be number one at the North American box office with a $22 million gross and good legs to carry it over the next few weeks. It is produced by Judd Apatow, whose wedding comedy sensation Bridesmaids grossed about $300 million worldwide after it was released last summer.

Hollywood expects the new comedy to gross at least half that amount.

About the plot of the film, director Stoller says he has seen the rooting for reconciliation happen around him on many occasions. At times there is a lot of pain and torture before a reconciliation comes around, he told Esquire magazine recently.

'I have a friend -- I'm friends with both him and his wife,' the 36-year-old filmmaker and writer mused. 'They were on and off for years, and they would break up and hook up with other people, and then get back together, and then break up again. They were torturing each other. And now they're married, and it's a great match. They needed to go through that. They were the right people, and they met at the wrong time. And I'm fascinated by that.'

He likes the idea of trial by fire in a relationship, he confessed, and he loves a happy ending.

'To me, this story is about two people realising that it doesn't have to be perfect for it to be great,' he continued. 'There was certainly an ending we could have shot that was them not getting back together, but I like a big, crowd-pleasing romantic comedy. That's what I love. That's what I like to watch. I love When Harry Met Sally... I love Annie Hall.'

For a film produced by Judd Apatow, who also directed Knocked Off and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, both raunchy but emotionally stirring films, the new movie may seem to be too clean.

Stoller's desire to reach a wider audience than in his previous films necessitated chopping off a frontal nudity scene featuring Segel in Five-Year Engagement.

When he watched the shot in the new film, he thought the film could do without it. So, gone is the scene in which Segel's character abruptly leaves a sexual act, running outside onto snow-covered streets without his pants. The new cut shows only his backside.

Segel, who also co-wrote the film, was okay with the cut, Stoller said in an interview. 'He was like, "Hey, man, you're the director,"' Stroller added.

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Arthur J Pais in New York