Friday, February 13, 2015

The Last Five Years: Movie Review


The musical version of a dramatic love story.
The Last Five Years is the five years in a relationship, the deconstruction of a marriage, but still romantic in its own way. Based on the musical of the same name, the movie is entirely sung. Each song verbalizes where each character is at in their life and in the story of their love, and then transitions into the next song which gets us into the next chapter of their relationship. 2014

Directed by: Richard LaGravenese

Screenplay by: Richard LaGravenese
Based on the musical by Jason Robert Brown

Starring: Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan

A musical which is as literal as you can get can have a very odd structure when translated to film. And this movie does suffer a little bit from having an undisciplined narrative. It can take you awhile at the beginning to figure out where we're at in the relationship and what each song is really telling us, but then when you get into each song, the film is freely able to take the audience with it.

Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan in THE LAST FIVE YEARS.
In addition to being a musical, it's also a romantic comedy. But a romantic comedy which bucks all traditional cliches of the genre. There is no meet cute, there are no best friends, there is no wedding, no last-minute airport dash, and there are no contrived misunderstandings that pull them apart. The ebb and flow to Cathy and Jamie's relationship is completely organic and set-up by only the songs. Closer to the romantic dramas in the vein of Blue Valentine (2010) and Like Crazy (2011), The Last Five Years is a fresh take on the deconstruction of a marriage since it's told through a musical composition of songs.

The only two characters are Cathy (Anna Kendrick) and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan). Cathy's a struggling actress and occasional photographer and fashion designer, but frequently falls victim to her own self doubts. Jamie's an author who has hit the big time with his book and is rising through the ranks while Cathy is floundering. Anna Kendrick's abilities as both an actress and a singer have always been known and mixes both to great results here. Jeremy Jordan is much better when he's singing, but luckily he sings frequently and has a great emotive and charismatic pull when he has his solos.

Most songs work but the up-tempo ones certainly help keep the film light and fun. A romantic comedy suggests it's light and fun but as their relationship goes through all the hills and valleys the tone of the film does as well. It can seem pretty far removed from a romantic comedy, since the relationship is more natural than it is funny or romantic, but The Last Five Years tells a love story through music. It tells a story so unique in its presentation and so beautifully simple that every extraneous element that seems missing at the beginning is not needed by the end.

Similar Titles:

Blue Valentine (2010) - Blue Valentine is tragically real, beautiful, and blue.

Like Crazy (2011) - A story of love, depending on what love really is.

Pitch Perfect (2012) - Romance to cheer for, low-grade comedy, but musical numbers both predictable and perfect.