It's the wedding-movie story you've worshiped a thousand times: Couple falls in love. Couple screws it up. Couple works it out. But unlike the protagonists of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "27 Dresses," or "Father of the Bride," Jason Segel's aspiring chef, Tom, and Emily Blunt's social psychologist, Violet, veer off the standard rom-com route in "The Five-Year Engagement" for a surprisingly realistic journey down the aisle.
"We tried to show a modern couple," Blunt says of Violet and Tom, who pack up their sunny San Fransico life for Violet's post-grad work in snowy Michigan. "It's the girl who has a career and the boy who has to follow and adjust. Tom's the one at home feeling a bit lost." At the heart of Segel's script, which he co-wrote with Nicholas Stoller, is an awareness that the years surrounding a wedding can be messy and that engaged couples aren't always eager to use the cookie cutter. "I think it's actually what the world is like," Blunt says. "My own mother said to my dad, 'When are you going to ask me to marry you?' It doesn't always have to be that the guy is down on one knee."
(In further proof that no one really fits the mold, Blunt adds: "My cousin Dominic just got married to a girl whose name is Shaunda, and my mom called to tell me the ceremony was a disaster. The priest kept calling her Ronda and kept forgetting the lines and there were huge pauses. Mum was like, 'He was obviously drunk.'")
Reflective of real-world couples though they may be, somewhere amid Violet and Tom's move—and with little thanks to Rhys Ifans' doting professor, Winton—they lose hold of the thread that stitched their relationship together. You can imagine how that unravels their wedding plans. "If you're in a relationship, you have to be forever generous," says Blunt, who married The Office actor John Krasinski at George Clooney's Lake Como villa in 2010. "You have to empower each other, even if that means spending time apart or making sacrifices in other ways. I think both people need some purpose, some identity, because you don't want to end up defining yourself by your association."
Photo: Courtesy of NBC Universal
Self-empowerment also fueled costume designer Leesa Evans, whose credits include "Bridesmaids" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," when creating looks for the film's climactic wedding scene. (Yes, Tom and Violet do get married, but the story of how is best left in the theater.) "I always try to find that place in each person where they feel incredibly comfortable," Evans says. "You know how it is when you put on a great pair of jeans and suddenly you don't feel self-conscious. I start with that core confidence."
In Blunt's case, that meant landing a wedding gown with a natural elegance that also matched Violet's feminine, but not girly, style. Recalling the over-the-top aesthetic of John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, Evans designed the comedically couture gown Maya Rudolph wears in "Bridesmaids," but with "The Five-Year Engagement," the wedding dress found her—at, of all places, designer discount chain Loehmanns. "They'd just gotten in an enormous shipment of Valentino samples," Evans remembers. "I felt like I'd hit the jackpot." She also considered a one-shoulder, pale green lace sheath by Stella McCartney, "but in the end we went with the Valentino because it felt effortless."
Evans advises non-movie brides to also follow a sense of ease when selecting a wedding gown. "It's about shape and the things that make you feel beautiful, whether it's a princess dress, a bias-cut sheath or a miniskirt," she says. "If you feel silly, you'll know, and if you feel sexy, you'll know. It's about listening to yourself."
Blunt, for one, knew exactly how she felt donning Valentino's flowy, empire-waisted gown to culminate Violet and Tom's half-decade-long engagement: "Leesa wanted to create something very singular for Violet. The wedding dress was an amazing moment—I loved it."
—Phillip B. Crook
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