The Last Five Years Review
If you think you know musicals, think again.
Do not be fooled into thinking you are entering the known and trusted utopian world of the musical.The Last Five Years is the story of a young couple who fall helplessly in love only to be sidetracked by the complications of life and success. Cathy (Anna Kendrick) plays the small town girl trying to find her big break in the city who meets Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), the optimistic young writer searching for a book deal. Richard LaGravenese, who wrote and directed this adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s musical, is no stranger to the romance flick having previously directed Beautiful Creatures and P.S. I Love you.The original musical drew its inspiration from Brown's own life and the resulting story spans the five year relationship of a young couple. So far, so familiar but the difference is that the events are shown form each of their perspectives. Cathy’s story starts at the end and Jamie’s from the beginning. Told entirely through song, we experience their ups and downs throughout a five year period as they both struggle with their careers and ultimately fight for their relationship.
We meet Jamie on the cusp of literary success as a result of his first book deal and is dubbed ‘the next Jonathan Franzen’. Quickly he, and girlfriend Cathy, are propelled into a world of glitzy launch parties where Jamie becomes the centre of both of their universes. Lacking the good fortune Jamie seems to have harnessed so quickly, Cathy is left trailing behind as Jamie paves the path for his own future success. Cathy on the other hand is left to attend numerous auditions in the hope that she too will receive the notoriety Jamie has seemingly so easily acquired.
Unfortunately, Cathy is left returning to Ohio to perform in summer theatre performances which she loathes, leaving Jamie in New York basking in his own glory surrounded by gorgeous women throwing themselves at him. We see how Cathy’s lack of success becomes heightened as Jamie becomes more and more successful, leaving her to watch on as she finds herself continually in his shadow learning to deal with his success and her own failure. Slowly we start to see their relationship unravel and we are given insight into their true feelings for each other through song.
Kendrick is truly the star of this film delivering honest, heartfelt emotion with every musical number. Her performance manifests itself beautifully through her facial expression, giving a believably gritty portrayal of someone found in her characters situations, which is only intensified by the close framing of her face. In contrast, while Jordan clearly can sing, his musical numbers pale in comparison to his co-star.
He manages to hit all the right notes and perform the songs well, but he doesn’t quite conjure the same feeling and vehemence as Kendrick. Despite Jordan’s shortcomings in The Last Five Years, working with Kendrick on screen manages to carry his performance as the chemistry between the two of them is persuading enough to elevate the scenes in which they sing together to deliver some moving moments of love and anger.
A moving and honest story about love and life, which is only enhanced by Anne Kendrick’s magnificent performance.
The Last Five Years is an interesting portrayal of the trials and tribulations of a young relationship. The conflicts the two protagonists experience aren’t all that farfetched, bringing an element of believability and realism into the mix. The way the film is structured, telling the story from two sides and each from opposite ends, sounds like a good idea on paper — however it does get a bit confusing at times, making it difficult to know who’s perspective we are supposed to be watching. Despite having both Cathy’s and Jamie’s point of view shown, the film is clearly seen through female eyes placing Jamie under the spotlight, trying to dissect and understand the male psyche.
There is some nice camera work and some clever shifts in angles signifying the changing relationship, along with the use of colour to enhance the mood of the characters and atmosphere on screen. The two stories meet in the middle with an event that takes place in Central Park. It’s here where we see some of the beautiful visual choices take place, the close up on their hands as they walk together along with the tight framing during this scene making it pleasing to the eye.
The Last Five Years is told purely through song with little to no dialogue to aid the narration, which wasn’t all that hard to watch or understand. The songs replace the typically expected dialogue well and deliver the same amount of information and at times even manage to delve into the inner thoughts of the characters. However, the songs themselves, some of which are quite witty and comical, aren’t easily distinguishable and they sadly don’t stand apart from each other.
Overall The Last Five Years was pleasurable to watch and didn’t fall into the expected stereotypical musical category that I had expected it to, and this is coming from someone who definitely is not a fan of the musical. Kendrick is what drives this film and packs the punch that it needs to make it stand apart from all the other musicals out there.
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