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Hello! I have been poorly the past few weeks so what better than to check out Jason Robert Brown’s indie film production of his musical, The Last Five Years. The film had its share of difficulties getting off the ground, even after filming the time required to find a distributor left fans wondering if it would ever see the light of day. Thankfully a distributor was found and a limited screening of The Last Five Years opened in the US in February 2015 at cinemas and is available for purchase on iTunes ($14.99) and Amazon Instant Video ($14.99). A UK release is coming up too (see below).
For those who have not seen the musical nor listened to the soundtracks (Original Cast | Revival) a hundred times +, the story is a two-person musical chronicling the five year romance between actress Cathy (film star Anna Kendrick) and writer Jamie (Broadway star Jeremy Jordan). Cathy’s story is told in reverse chronological order starting at the end of their relationship while Jamie’s story is told in chronological order starting at the beginning of their relationship.
Unlike the stage musical, the two characters are constantly overlapping and appearing together in nearly each scene. This is probably the film’s best decision and worst decision at the same time. For the avid fan of the material, it’s great to see the two characters interacting especially during numbers such as “See, I’m Smiling” and “The Schmuel Song“. For those who are unfamiliar with the material, it can become problematic as it was when I was showing the movie to my dad because the timeline that was clear-cut in the musical is now blurred and fuzzy without absolutely charity what time or who’s POV we’re meant to be witnessing.
Other pros of the film:
- Anna Kendrick (Cathy) is incredible and her performance is top-notch and draws you in from the first lines of “Still Hurting” when she laments the end of her marriage. Ms. Kendrick carries the film perfectly and keeps you captivated from beginning to end with each of her numbers and scenes.
- Jeremy Jordan (Jamie) is vocally strong opposite Ms. Kendrick and has some great moments especially during the emotionally charged “If I Didn’t Believe In You” and “Nobody Needs To Know“. But the film is definitely Anna Kendrick’s vehicle.
- Jason Robert Brown‘s score is still as lush as the original 2001 musical and thankfully all the songs are intact which is a rarity with movie adaptations (take Anna Kendrick’s Into the Woods for example).
- Richard LaGravenese‘ filming and direction is intimate and properly simplistic not distracting too much from the original musical’s intimacy and beauty of being a 2-person show.
Cons of the film:
- LaGravenese‘ direction may be one of the film’s strengths but it is also one of it’s weaknesses when he sees fit to bring in large numbers of extras that can be distracting, especially in Jamie’s “Moving Too Fast“.
- As I mentioned earlier, the timeline in the film can be a bit confusing for those who are unfamiliar with the show.
- The adult language from the musical has been toned down to allow for a PG-13 rating, meaning only one F-bomb is thrown out and that’s during Cathy’s “See I’m Smiling” and frankly it is one of the most fitting uses of the word – if there is such a thing – helping to demonstrate the character’s turmoil. [I am told the language has not been toned down in the album.]
- Now that the show’s numbers feature additional actors, that means that there are three sexually suggestive scenes during “Shiksa Goddess“, “I Can Do Better Than That“, and “Nobody Needs To Know” although they are brief and tame by PG-13 standards.
- The story is about the breakup of a marriage; not exactly roses and rainbows. Could definitely be a good opener for a family discussion.