I’m always game for a musical that tries to do something new and ambitious, as long as their done to their fullest potential. Having never actually seen any of the off-Broadway productions of “The Last Five Years,” I can say that I was happily going in blind on it, aside from knowing how the show was structured and maybe one or two of the songs. The film, adapted to the screen by Richard LaGravenese, showcases the five year relationship between Anna Kendrick’s Cathy and Jeremy Jordan’s Jamie, however the way it’s presented is a lot more unique than one would expect. In homage to the musical from Jason Robert Brown, the film starts off by showing the perspective of Cathy when she and Jamie have broken up. Jamie’s story, on the other hand, begins at the start of the relationship. Jamie’s story is then told chronologically while Catchy’s is told in reverse order, so at the end of the film it’s Jamie who’s at the end and Cathy who’s at the beginning. As creative as this is, I actually think this worked to the film’s disadvantage, personally.
While we see both sides of the relationship at different times, I never really got the sense that we as an audience could pinpoint the moment where the relationship started crumbling. We do get a scene showing one of the characters finding another significant person to love, but that’s about it. Not to mention, as a narrative it never exactly felt like we got to spend enough time with these characters in order to relate and empathize with them. It just felt like screenwriter/director LaGravenese was trying to be so much like the musical that he forgot to add a few more scenes of exposition and dialogue to give us more bang for our buck. Not to mention, this movie was surprisingly fast paced, and I don’t see that as a good thing. We never got to feel the length of the “relationship” at any moment, so it just felt like song after song that jump all through their five year relationship until the credits began. Before I get any more into this topic, let me just clarify that I did indeed enjoy “The Last Five Years” overall.
Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan are absolutely superb here as the only two significant cast members in the film. When the scenes call for them to be happy and in love, they are convincingly great together as a couple. And when the film call for them to have their relationship be crumbling apart, they capture the hardships couples can go through almost perfectly from what I’ve seen before. Kendrick in particular has this sex appeal to her that makes her more engaging and fierce, and her overly-theatrical musical sequences all the more entertaining to watch. Jordan also showcases a likability to him that will make the ladies swoon for him. Not to mention, in their final scene in the film, both characters sing a duet that shows both the ups and downs featured in the movie in a bitter-sweet way. If it weren’t them in the designated roles, I’m not sure how effective the scene, along with the rest of the film, would have been.
For those who have seen the original musical, it should be noted that almost, if not all of the songs are included in this film adaptation. Being new to the music, I must say that nearly every single song number is catchy, mood-setting, and help to tell the overall story going on. My personal favorite song was a song called “Shiksa Goddess” where Jamie talks about his love for Cathy, a non-Jewish woman. Other highlights on the soundtrack include “A Summer in Ohio,” a song where Cathy sings about her, well, Summer in Ohio, and the film’s finale number “Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You,” which I won’t fully explain here. Overall, I highly doubt people will be disappointed by the quality of the soundtrack. If anything, this might be the one positive thing many people who are negative towards the film will take away from it as a whole.
At the end of the day, I will admit that I enjoyed myself during “The Last Five Years.” The acting is great, and the songs are catchy too. Could writer/director LaGravenese have added a couple more scenes to give us more time to connect and spend time with Cathy and Jamie? I believe so. Could the scenes that are in the film have been dragged out a bit in order to give us time to feel like we’re watching a five-year relationship unfold? Absolutely. Unfortunately, that’s not what we have here, but overall I had fun with the movie and was tapping my foot during some of the musical numbers. If you want to see a well-made, musically pleasing, and well acted Broadway adaptation, then I do recommend “The Last Five Years,” though you may come out of it wanting more from what was given.