Directed by: Richard LaGravenese
Music and Lyrics by: Jason Robert Brown
Cast: Jeremy Jordan, Anna Kendrick
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexual material, brief strong language and a drug image)
In this adaptation of the hit musical, The Last Five Years is a musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage taking place over a five year period. Jamie (Jordan), a young, talented up-and-coming Jewish novelist falls in love with Cathy (Kendrick), a Shiksa Goddess and struggling actress. Their story is told almost entirely through song. All of Cathy's songs begin at the end of their marriage and move backwards in time to the beginning of their love affair, while Jamie's songs start at the beginning of their affair and move forward to the end of their marriage. They meet in the center when Jamie proposes.
“The Last Five Years” is not your typical, mainstream musical theater piece. In fact, even as a musical theater major in college, I would often find my peers didn’t know that this show even existed. I only knew because I had attended an audition early on in High School where a guy sang “Shiksa Goddess” and I in turn went and found what show it was from. “The Last Five Years” ran off-Broadway in 2002.
The first thing you should know about this show is it isn’t told linearly. Which can get confusing. (Taken from Wikipedia): “The show uses a form of storytelling in which Cathy’s story is told in reverse chronological order (beginning the show at the end of the marriage), and Jamie’s is told in chronological order (starting just after the couple have first met). The characters do not directly interact except for a wedding song in the middle as their timelines intersect.” Now, in the movie, they do interact, a fact which I greatly appreciated as it would probably get boring (on screen, I don’t mind this style of storytelling onstage) if they didn’t.
We should just get out of the way the fact that this score is amazing, and Jason Robert Brown is a brilliant composer. I love his work, especially this show. So if nothing else, the music spectacular, and the movie stays true to the original score.
The cinematography here is interesting; the director seemed to be going for a voyeuristic feel, and it felt like we were following the couple with a handheld camera, capturing their most intimate or private moments.
Jeremy Jordan plays Jamie, a soon-to-be successful novelist. I’m convinced Jeremy Jordan can do no wrong. He is absolutely stellar as Jamie, proving he can sing anything anyone puts onto paper. He attacks the role with the same ferocity and energy you would see from him onstage (I was fortunate enough to see him on Broadway a few years ago, and let me tell you, what you hear in the movie is what he can do in real life. None of that is artificially created in a studio). Jordan creates a very sympathetic Jamie, and you will find yourself rooting for him, even as he finds himself in bed with someone other than his wife. He absolutely shines in “The Schmuel Song”, a very sweet moment where he is cheering up Cathy after a particularly horrible day at work. But again, he practically annihilates every song he sings, making it an absolute pleasure to watch his performance.
Anna Kendrick plays the less likable Cathy; I’m not Anna Kendrick’s biggest fan. I think she’s fine. I really liked her in Pitch Perfect and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. She was ok in Into the Woods. I was vastly disappointed with her first song in “The Last Five Years” (Still Hurting), especially since it is one of Cathy’s most vulnerable and emotional moments. It just felt…boring. Kendrick, especially compared to Jordan, just doesn’t seem to have the same level of energy necessary to pull off on-screen musicals. I think the hard thing about making movie musicals is that they need to be as if you are performing onstage. There has to be more energy than just your average movie performance. And when you get movie actors and put them next to Broadway stars, there is going to be an obvious difference. That being said, I believe Kendrick shone in “A Summer in Ohio”. Interestingly enough, I would say Kendrick does better when she is performing on a stage in a movie (Such as “Summer in Ohio” or the performances onstage in “Pitch Perfect).
The two together have good chemistry, which is a relief, seeing as the movie was filmed in three weeks, and sometimes, on-screen chemistry has to be developed. I believe Jeremy Jordan could have chemistry with a brick wall, though. He’s just that good.
All of that being said, if you love musical theater, you will adore this movie version of “The Last Five Years”. Very well performed (especially Jeremy Jordan), you will be humming this gorgeous score long after the movie is over.