I Do My Best, Most Serious and Committed Dancing When I Am Completely Alone

The semester is ending! I see the light! The tunnel does, indeed, end. Once I grade my students’ final projects, I will be free until mid-June when I teach a class that will not strain me at all and five weeks after that, I will be free until the end

of August.

I am currently dealing with intense anxiety about my New York trip–all those fancy, beautiful people! It is intimidating and scary and reminds me that I really want to just stay super committed to working out, etc., even when I am traveling so I don’t have to always feel so glah. I made that word up.

There was a bug in my apartment tonight. It has a green underside and an exoskeleton that was probably made out of nanotubes or carbon fibers or something. I am saying this bug was not of this world. This is basically what the bug looked like:

I am afraid of bugs. I was alone. I couldn’t handle hanging out with the bug until I was no longer alone in a few hours. I covered my hair because I have this thing about bugs in my hair (I JUST SHIVERED OMG), and got some important tools–a broom, a shoe, a drink. I slowly stalked the bug along the far wall of my living room. It was high up so I couldn’t reach with my shoe. I used the broom. I hit the bug eventually after some misses that involved me shrieking, wildly swinging the broom with my eyes closed, and throwing my arms over my face as some kind of ineffectual shield. The bug fell to the floor and I heard just how hard the exoskeleton was. It was very hard. I did not want to pick up the bug because, ugh, gross. I decided to leave it for some man to dispose of. I forgot to cover what I thought was a dead bug with something because hey, I thought it was dead.

I went about my business, finished an essay, wasted time. Suddenly, I heard that terrifying buzzing this bug makes and its hard exoskeleton beating against my walls. Panic. I looked up and the bug had been resurrected. It was a JESUS BUG. I did not know this. I was really freaked out. I got Pontius Pilate on that bug, collected my tools once more. My hair was still covered because I was feeling apprehensive about this wildlife situation even when I thought the bug was dead. I can now definitely say Jesus Bug is dead. When I beat it the second time and it fell with a hard thud a second time, I could see it’s tiny legs twitching so I did what any normal person would do. I began shrieking again and beating the shit out of it with my shoe which, thankfully, is not one of my favorite shoes. There were some smears. Then I swept the bug and its entrails outside. I hope the carcass gets eaten by some kind of vulture bug. I hope Peter denies its existence three times.

I know my Jesus Christ Superstar like a motherfucker.

When I dance, I make this stank dance face so it’s probably best that I do my best, most serious and committed dancing when I am completely alone. I am currently obsessed with Drake’s The Motto, Rihanna’s ridiculous cake song (RLY?), that We Are Young song, and pretty much every song on Girls. I know, I know, but that emo electronic shit is my groove a lot of the time. Also, The Lumineers! They are amazing–Big Parade, Ho Hey, Slow it Down. Get on it.

This past weekend I went to Boulder, Colorado, where I read and paneled with Diane Williams and Joyelle McSweeney. It was a wonderful experience and definitely a Life Moment, getting to meet and talk to Diane who was exactly how I imagined. She had such generous, intelligent things to say. She is a great reader. I loved how she read her work to give it the quirky voice a lot of her stories have. Joyelle rapped. She had mad rhymes. You have to see her read if you get the chance. She threw amazing energy all throughout the lecture hall and I really admire how her work is so nakedly political.

My hosts were awesome and they put us up at The Boulderado, this historic hotel with an old-fashioned elevator requiring an elevator operator. I was ALL ABOUT getting in that elevator at every opportunity. The night elevator operator was real salty. He said, “You’re not just riding up and down are you?” I said, “Of coure not,” real offended like. I was angry he had figured out my plan. No ride for me. I also saw a lady puking her guts out in front of the hotel, which has three bars. The cops were right there. The lady kept apologizing. She was clearly not an altitude drinker. That poor sidewalk.

When I arrived at the Denver airport, Hertz upgraded me to the most ridiculous car I have ever been in–a Cadillac Escalade. This is a car with a button and sensor for everything. The seats are heated and I couldn’t figure out how to turn the heat off, so my ass roasted at ninety degrees for the 40 minute drive to Boulder. I am not really into cars but if an Escalade showed up at my apartment, I would keep it and love it. The car had a back up camera! It has these sensors where if a car is in your blindspot, the side mirrors let you know. The future holds such dark magic.

On Saturday I went sightseeing in Colorado Springs with my friend Aubrey. We went to the Air Force Academy and twice unintentionally tried to breach unauthorized areas. The cadets were NOT HAVING IT which was pretty amazing. I do not know about the rest of the country, but the Air Force Academy is SECURE! They kept asking me for my military ID and I kept thinking, “Do I look like a soldier?” We did not see a single ugly cadet so clearly there is an appearance requirement and thank goodness. I bought souvenirs. I blame the altitude. There was a B-52 bomber we stared at and we saw the chapel which is beautiful, majestic even. This one important looking airman, clearly not a cadet, he nodded to us and he was hot so I’m guessing he remembers us as the best part of his day. We also took a little trip over to Focus on that Family. I just had to see where that shitshow is headquartered. I took a picture of the sign. We also went to this mountain and saw this crunchy dude hanging from a rock that was… on the ground. It was weird. I desperately wanted to ask, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, SIR? THAT IS NOT CLIMBING! We also went to Garden of the Gods which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I never got adjusted to the altitude so I was nauseous the entire time but it was totally worth it. On the flight home, I sat next to a man who was at least 6’6″ so I offered him my number and my uterus.

Basically, a lot happened.

I had such high hopes for The Five-Year Engagement. I love Jason Segal. I love Emily Blunt. I love romantic comedies and dramedies. I am the target audience for this movie. I am starting to think Apatow needs to reengineer his formula and find new collaborators. So many things went wrong with this movie! It boggles the mind. Clearly, exceedingly long movies with no plot are all the rage these days but Apatow needs to be reigned in, immediately. He needs an editor. More than once during the movie, I thought it was so absurdly indulgent. The running time of 125 minutes was unwarranted. I love long movies but there were so many unnecessary lingering, crappy shots of scenery and unfunny bits drawn out to even unfunnier effect. It’s never a good thing when the audience is thinking, PLEASE MAKE THIS END. One guy walked out which I found pretty funny.

There’s this couple, you see, and they love each other, and the man proposes to the woman and she says yes and we learn about their meet cute story and we’re supposed to be charmed but Segal and Blunt have no chemistry. Individually, they are charming but watching them try to make us believe they are a couple is, at the very least, awkward.

There are too many unnecessary scenes designed to provide humor in what is a largely humorless movie. The movie poster, with the wedding flourishes and pink typography would have you believe The Five-Year Engagement is a romantic comedy but it is a drama trying too hard to bring in a few moments of levity. Take the engagement party scene. It is all very forced. They’re at a bed and breakfast with a pig theme. Why? Who knows. Various friends and family give entirely predictable speeches about marriage gone wrong, former lovers of the groom to be, not believing in marriage, etc. Basically Apatow aims for every predictable target in the marriage narrative and hits it poorly.

More often than not, I found this movie profoundly depressing. Why? I should have felt a little hope, I think.

What is particularly frustrating about The Five-Year Engagement is that the movie is tackling some really interesting issues or it could if it got out of its own way.

Emily’s background is never really explained but through a few vague, bullshit clues, we learn she is some kind of graduate student, no wait, post doc, in psychology, looking for a job. She applied to Berkeley (the couple lives in San Francisco) but she doesn’t get in. Instead, she gets a job as a post doc at the University of Michigan and then we see that the people involved in this movie don’t know a damn thing about higher education.

Before that, Emily tells Jason she got the job. He’s a promising chef and he decides to follow Emily and we’re supposed to throw our panties at him because of this choice, right? I mean it is so progressive for a man to follow a woman for her career. I was really interested by this choice but it was depicted in such a heavy-handed manner I just got irritated. When Jason goes to quit his job, his boss tells him she was about to make him head chef. Why? Why is this necessary? Well, we need more angst. We need it to seem like he’s making this huge sacrifice. We’re supposed to be grateful for a man doing something women do all the damn time.

There’s also this sort of incoherent subplot about Emily’s sister who hooks up with Jason’s bestie at their engagement party and she gets knocked up and they end up getting married way before the couple who was supposed to get married first. Jason’s bestie ends up getting the head chef job at the new restaurant. I guess they’re suppose to be some kind of counterpoint but they are introduced into the narrative so inconsistently that they have few opportunities to make the movie better.

In Michigan, Emily attends a class. Why? She already, presumably, has her PhD. She wouldn’t be in class, ever. The lecture hall is, of course, packed with students who are awake, engaged, and happy to be there. BS. The professor is Rhys Ifans, the quirky guy from Notting Hill. He is one of those rockstar professors who only exist in movies. His lecture is a performance. BS. He’s charming and smart and witty and gives this BS explanation of social psychology. BS BS BS.

The students, enraptured, break into applause at the end of his nonsensical lecture. BS.

Emily eye fucks rockstar professor from her seat because every attractive female student lusts for professor even when he is gangly and not traditionally attractive. Foreshadowing! OH HAI! Then we meet the other post docs she’ll be working with and it’s totally Benetton—Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, and

Randall Park. They are trying to find a social psychology study to conduct and Emily comes up with a study that is sort of embarrassing to even mention, so I won’t. My cousin happens to have gotten his PhD in psychology from the very program in the movie so I was painfully aware of how totally absurd it all was but hey, the U of M campus looked fantastic! Emily is totes having the time of her life–dream job, dream colleagues, captivating lab director. What could go wrong?

Meanwhile, Jason cannot find a job because there would be no tension if they were both happy at the same time. After lots of job interviews with crazy people, (SEE? THIS MOVIE IS FUNNY, OKAY?), he gets a job at Zingerman’s, which is a real place and a great restaurant. If you’re ever in Ann Arbor, go to the restaurant and bakery. You’re welcome. Jason befriends a stay at home dad (Dr. Spaceman from 30 Rock) who knits horrible sweaters and makes inane remarks about his masculinity being compromised because hey, when a man stays at home and does something women have been doing forever, that means he’s less of a man.

Time goes on. Jason and Dr. Spaceman become buddies. There’s hunting. There’s lots of fake snow and winter.

Emily continues to thrive while Jason wallows in misery. The wedding is on and off and on and off and it’s never really clear why because the movie is just stretching out the inanity as much as it can. Grandparents die like three times to further illustrate just how long his couple has been engaged. Their nonexistent chemistry diminishes.

One night, it’s maybe been three years in Ann Arbor, who knows, Emily goes drinking with her peers and the rockstar professor kisses her and she feels terrible and she drunkenly runs to Jason’s job where he is baking things with his coworkers and she basically says, “Let’s get married ASAP so I can feel better about this inappropriate thing that just happened.” They start planning the wedding again, only on a really accelerated timeline. The night before the rehearsal dinner, give or take, Emily tells Jason her boss kissed her and he says, “Yeah, you asked for it,” and they are awkward around each other. When they have sex, Jason can’t come because you know, when a woman kisses another man, she’s totally damaged goods. As an aside, why does Jason Segal always have to play the funny fat man in his sex scenes? It’s so lame that fat people can’t ever just have the same kind of sex skinny people are having. Also, Jason Segal is hot. He’s tall and funny and decent looking. He’d get it. Why can’t he ever get a sex scene that isn’t played for laughs or repulsion? In the pantheon of Hollywood “fat” men, Jason Segal is a TEN on a scale of 1-5. (He’s a ten on any scale in my book, honestly.)

Gah. SHUT UP, HOLLYWOOD.

The next night, the rehearsal dinner is awkward and lame. Jason goes outside for some fresh air and rockstar professor is there to apologize and Jason gets super masculine and says, “You better run, now,” because he’s a man and his woman is his woman and he needs to piss all over her to make a point. There’s a stupid chase through the mean streets of Ann Arbor that ends with the professor doing some hilarious parkour to get away.

Jason then runs into one of his coworkers, a girl, of course, and they go to the restaurant and she shoves potato salad in his face and what ensues is one of the most bewildering, unappealing scenes to ever grace the silver screen. It ends with Jason stumbling out of the restaurant, after kissing the girl, without his pants. He passes out in the snow, loses his toe to frostbite, and while he’s in the hospital, he and Emily have the most genial break up in the history of break ups.

WAIT.

WHAT????

After sitting through this dry, humorless, interminable movie, they break up? It’s such a cock block.

In the next set of scenes, Jason is dating the much younger restaurant hostess from his restaurant where he worked before moving. Emily is, obvi, dating rockstar professor. This movie doesn’t even TRY! Neither of them are particularly happy. Emily gets a tenure track job at U of M and then has a crise when she realizes that maybe, just maybe, she got the job because she was fucking her boss. She doesn’t, like, give up the job but she totally feels guilty about it for thirty-seven seconds. There’s a phone call where Jason gets angry and they chat and then Jason has brunch with his parents who are like, umm, why are you fucking around? Go marry the girl you love. There’s a funeral in London and Jason flies over the Atlantic and the couple reconnects in literally less than a minute. They are in bed shortly thereafter. She has a couple weeks before her job starts so she joins him in San Francisco where he is now running a taco truck. DO YOU SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE? His job is now mobile. GET IT? They have a perfect time reliving their romance. When he’s taking her to the airport, she proposes to him and he proposes to her and they have a quirky, insta-wedding and everyone lives happily ever after, we assume, in Michigan. I was so mad I wanted to throw something at the screen.

There were great moments in The Five-Year Engagement. For the most part, each role was well acted. The ideas were solid even though the connective tissue between those ideas was weak. What bothered me was the strange, cynical undertone that ran throughout the movie. The cinematography, save for the scenes on the U of M campus were dull and washed out, like the print of the movie has been bleached. Was this a deliberate artistic choice? I don’t know, but it wasn’t a good choice. There were few good choices in this movie and that was a damn shame. The more I think about this movie, the madder I get about how not good it was.

15 comments on “I Do My Best, Most Serious and Committed Dancing When I Am Completely Alone

  1. I’ve been reading the essays you’ve published on The Rumpus for a while now, and I have loved them. Now after reading this post I feel you are just plain human and bad ass. Keep it up! Cheers.

  2. I have my very own “strange encounter” in my backyard, Sunday: pulled a potted bougainvillea out of the spot it had been sitting in for a year, felt extraordinary tug, looked down: underneath the pot, a tangle of long, slimy lizard-like things — I would say earthworms, but these had FEET.

    Then, anxieties abt New York and weight and need to work out: You too? I felt like I had to diet for two months before giving a reading in DC … now that the reading is over (almost a month ago), I think I gained at least 5 lbs and am definitely back to “frump” mode…

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