The Last 5 Years (2014)

last5years_2014_poster
The Last 5 Years (2014)
  • Time: 94 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Musical
  • Director: Richard LaGravenese
  • Cast: Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan, Natalie Knepp, Tamara Mintz

Storyline:

The Last 5 Years by Tony award winning composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown is a musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage taking place over a five year period. Jamie Wellerstein is a young, talented up and coming Jewish novelist who falls in love with Cathy Hiatt, a Shiksa Goddess struggling actress. Their story is told almost entirely through songs using an intercutting time line device; 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.

3 reviews

  • Director Richard Lagravanese listened to the soundtrack of the off-Broadway musical The Last Five Years before he actually saw the show. Jason Robert Brown’s two-hander charted the ups and downs of a couple’s relationship from dueling perspectives and chronologies.

    Lagravanese retains the he said / she said structure in the film adaptation with Cathy (Anna Kendrick) starting from the relationship’s dissolution and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) reliving the arc commencing with their glory days. Cathy is Jamie’s shiksa goddess, whose failed dreams of becoming an actress exacerbate her feelings of being marginalised as college dropout Jamie becomes a literary sensation upon publication of his debut novel. The imbalance becomes ever precarious as he’s feted at various parties and book events, where she finds herself as abandoned as when he prioritises his career obligations over more personal matters like her birthday.

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  • (Rating: ☆☆ ☆ out of 4)

    This film is recommended.

    In brief: The film’s opposing narrative structure affects its emotional impact, but two fine performances and a lovely score more that compensates for those creative limitations

    GRADE: B

    Due to the fiIm’s episodic nature, I just didn’t have any emotional connection with the main characters in The Last Five Years: Cathy (Anna Kendricks), a struggling actress, and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) an up-and-coming writer. This was due to the film’s gimmicky format in which one character begins this musical character study as a shrewish and depressed harpy while the other appears to be a likable happy-go-lucky chap. Their attraction to each other seems out of kilter from the start (or in this case, the finish). Yes, their personalities change throughout the relationship, but their initial first impressions tend to cloud the story as it unfolds.

    Many who do not know the original source material may be caught off guard by the film’s narrative structure. Its main conceit is exposing a love affair told in directly opposing views and timeframes, parallel lives in a parallel world. Sometimes, it works beautifully, other times not so much. The film’s choppy structure will keep the average moviegoers at a safe distance wondering if the characters are suffering from nasty mood swings or bi-polar anxiety. (I knew about the play, but I still had some confusion with the reversal.)

    The musical is well performed by its talented twosome (although the original Off Broadway duo, the awesomely talented Sherie Rene Scott and Norbert Leo Butz , are far superior to their younger replacements). Ms, Kendricks is charming and in strong voice. She carries Cathy’s vulnerability and self doubt to wondrous effect. Mr. Jordan (heaven knows) offers fine support and his Jamie is a multi-layered conundrum of ego and naivety.  They have the needed chemistry to make the drama and the music work.

    The music score by Jason Robert Brown has many tender and romantic moments even if some of the numbers seem overdone and stagey, especially when other extras are in the scene and suddenly break into dance or become living tableaus. Particularly glaringly out of place is The Schmuel Song, a song which does little to advance the plot and should have been left on the cutting room floor. Writer/ Director Richard LaGravenese skillfully opens up the film and gives it a shot of reality by utilizing the NYC settings to maximum effect. His screenplay captures love in all of its various stages, from the sweet to the bittersweet to the bitter (or vise versa).

    The Last Five Years may not always succeed; much depends on your own musical tastes. But it is worthy of your attention, especially if you are a lover of musical theater.

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  • Watching a movie has changed and will continue to change until movie theaters are pure nostalgia. I will miss the audience, the shared experience, of a movie. Today there are more and more TV commercials before the movie in a theater and more and more films are available on your TV, even if they’re in movie theaters. I don’t know what’s going to happen with this new movie, The Last Five Years. (Currently, it is playing a very limited run in selected cities but is available through iTunes, On Demand, and several other outlets.) Since I don’t live near any of the theaters where it’s being shown, I watched it on TV. This movie is better served with this type of release than if it had just been pushed into movie theaters.

    Jason Robert Brown wrote the music and lyrics for this musical when it started out on stage. It is, pretty much, sung throughout and only has two characters, Cathy and Jamie, who tell the same story but from different ends. Cathy goes from the end of her relationship and marriage while Jamie tells the same story from the beginning. There is very little dialog, but the songs tell the whole story well.
    The Last Five Years is an excellent musical and I wondered how they would make a movie of it. It would have to be opened up or just a film of a stage production. The story could be told in a linear fashion or kept as it was originally. Characters and dialog could be added or it could just be the two of them, Jamie and Cathy, in isolation. Some of the movie went one way, while some went the other, but I’m happy to say the choices that were made were the right ones for this story on film.

    You couldn’t have asked for better performances than those of Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick playing Jamie and Cathy. Yes, there are other people and there is interaction with them, but it is silent interaction. Jordan and Kendrick carry this film with the emotions they show as they move through the story. It is still done in two directions but it is opened up to real locations and the people who would be in those locations. There are actually several dance sequences that work very well.
    Kendrick and Jordan sing the score beautifully. I’m convinced some of it was sung during filming and not prerecorded but there are no flaws in the music. My favorite songs come one right after another and I think they are my favorites because there is the least animosity in them. “Summer In Ohio” is sung by Cathy from the summer theater where she is working and I finally got to see these people. It was great fun with all of them dancing while Cathy daydreams about what she would rather be doing. The next song, also a favorite, is “The Next Ten Minutes” which has a perfect lyric about relationships and ends with their wedding.

    The Last Five Years is challenging. People whose brains only work in one direction at a time are going have some trouble with the film’s structure but it is worth it. I give this movie 4 watches out of 4. It is highly recommended

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