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Posted on Sat, Apr 21, 2012 : 2:07 a.m.

Ann Arbor gets sneak peek at locally filmed 'The Five Year Engagement'

By Jenn McKee


"The Five Year Engagement" producer Rodney Rothman, left, and director Nicholas Stoller answer questions after the premier of their movie at the Michigan Theater Friday night.

Angela J. Cesere |

When 1,100 patrons crowded the Michigan Theater’s main auditorium on Friday night, to get an early glimpse of the filmed-mostly-in-Ann-Arbor comedy “The Five Year Engagement,” they exhibited a level of engagement unlikely to be matched when the movie opens nationally on April 27.

There were cheers and applause, for instance, when Emily Blunt’s character received mail from the University of Michigan; and yet another round of cheers when Zingerman’s Deli—where Jason Segel’s character works—makes its first appearance. There was mumbling and whispering as characters who were running around downtown Ann Arbor at night were suddenly also running around downtown Ypsilanti; and a mention of Zingerman’s City Goat cheese scored a laugh.

Director Nicholas Stoller and producer Rodney Rothman clearly appreciated the close attention paid by Friday night’s crowd. As they took the stage, following the screening, the first thing Stoller said was, “I feel we should apologize for referencing a pickle that’s not actually served at Zingerman’s.”

The movie tells the story of Tom (Segel), a chef, and Violet (Blunt), an aspiring psychology professor, who fall in love and get engaged in San Francisco. When Violet gets an irresistible career opportunity at the University of Michigan, the couple postpone their wedding and move to Ann Arbor. But as Violet gets closer to her dream, Tom gets further and further away from his, making the couple’s way to the altar fraught with delays and heartache.

Friday night's advance screening at the Michigan Theater was a fundraiser for 826michigan, a local, nonprofit writing center for kids.


A crowd turned out Friday night at the Michigan Theater for the premiere of "The Five Year Engagement," which is partly set and filmed in Ann Arbor.

Angela J. Cesere |

When asked by an audience member if the filmmakers would consider shooting another movie in Michigan, Stoller answered, “We loved shooting in Michigan. Everything about it was awesome. It was a great experience, and it’s a beautiful state that provides a lot of different landscapes. So hopefully the tax credit will remain in some way. It certainly helps.”

“Nick picked Ann Arbor for this movie for a creative reason, which is, his wife (Francesca Delbanco) and her family are from here,” said Rothman. “So it was really intended to be a love letter to someplace that he really likes to come and visit. And my wife is also from Michigan, and went to University of Michigan and went to law school here. So we love Michigan. We’d love to come back here and make more movies."

The pair also addressed why they chose Ann Arbor’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Palmer House as a set for the film. (It stands in for the house of Rhys Ifans, who plays Blunt’s psychology professor.)

Zingerman’s co-founder Paul Saginaw, on stage with Stoller and Rothman, took part in a conversation about the role that Zingerman’s played in the film. (Warning: this video contains adult language.)

When asked about material that got cut in post-production, Stoller said, “We shot a whole 10-minute sequence, actually, that we cut out where, after they have that all-night fight, Emily feels really bad, and she invites Jason out, they end up going out to dinner, and she finds out that he has no savings, and they get into a big argument there. And then she feels bad, and she ends up lending him money to open a restaurant which then explodes. That was a whole sequence that—we shot all of it, including the exploding restaurant. And it felt repetitive, so we cut it.”

One of the movie’s funniest scenes involves two characters having an adult conversation while, at the request of a young girl, using the voices of Elmo and Cookie Monster. Stoller discussed the genesis of the scene during Friday night’s Q&A.

The filmmakers also highlighted what they enjoyed about Ann Arbor during the “Five Year” shoot.

Concluding their remarks, Rothman noted that Friday night’s event “was, for us, an amazing screening of the movie. … I literally want everyone here to just spread out across the country and sit in theaters playing this movie.”

“Also, I really appreciated the City Goat laugh,” Stoller added. “That will be the first and last time we get a laugh off that. And it did not go unnoticed.”

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter


Pizza Man

Sat, Apr 21, 2012 : 11:07 p.m.

I was there. I didn't get the City Goat joke, what were they talking about?

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Lemmy and I must have been in two different theaters. The movie I watched depicted the two main characters living in an old, tiny, yellow house on the west side of Ann Arbor. The psychology department head was the one living in the fancy house (which in real life is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Palmer House). In San Fransisco, where the male character was head sous chef at a trendy restaurant, I believe they were depicted as living in a one-bedroom flat.

Lemmy Caution

Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

It's a goat cheese from the Zingerman Creamery, I think. I know it's just a mainstream Hollywood rom-com blah blah blah, but I was irked by how a chef and a grad student live in a million dollar house in a completely picturesque neighborhood, even as renters. What would the rent be for that? $3,000 a month? $4,000? Of course San Francisco is a paradise if you can afford to live there, not least in 1% neighborhoods like Pacific Heights (Specific Whites, they call it). In reality, they'd be sharing a multi-room apartment with several roommates. Compared to that renting a bungalow on the western side of Granger Street would be a step up. The dude could actually spread out and cook at home, for example. Just another example of how lame Hollywood movies act like the economic conditions of our lives are just not dramatically interesting or revealing about character, life, society, and so forth. All the Judd Apatow-related movies share in the TV-comedy unreality. That is all. It was a great event though. GO 826!!

Lemmy Caution

Sat, Apr 21, 2012 : 9:23 p.m.

The best part of it was seeing the huge crowd come out to charitably support 826Michigan and its tutoring and writing programs! The cake, the drinks, the laughs. My wife commented on the way home that it made Ann Arbor really feel like a community. My favorite line in the movie was when the randy Zingerman's employee jammed potato salad in Jason Segel's face to start off a would-be 9 1/2 Weeks food-sexathon.... Anyway, she says "mmm. Can you taste the fennel pollen?" The movie was not too special. It's theme: Ann Arbor, Where Love Goes to Die, was badly overplayed. BUT the crowd and the vibration: priceless.

Bells Defranco

Sat, Apr 21, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

Granted, the director and producer came, which was nice. But the actors didn't bother. Can't blame them - they're off to bigger and better projects.

Bells Defranco

Sat, Apr 21, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

The movie didn't really work. Variety has a good review that nails it. Stoller mentioned cutting scenes which he thought were gratuitous. I thought the short sex scene was gratuitous. Stoller also gave a nice standard fluffy answer about whether he'd come back. The correct answer is "no, not unless you give us a ton of money again." They love Ann Arbor, but only because the state gave 'em a boatload of cash to film here. And notice all the actors had time to go to the New York premiere but not even one could make time for the Ann Arbor showing? They love Ann Arbor, but apparently not enough to come back and say thank you.


Sun, Apr 22, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

If you paid close attention, they really gave Michigan and Ann Arbor a negative slant...