When I graduated college in 2002, everyone was buzzing about a new musical by one of my favorite lyricists/composers Jason Robert Brown. Not a single person I spoke to about The Last Five Years walked away without some sense of wonder. God only knows how I missed the run, perhaps graduation and surrounding shenanigans got in my way. Needless to say, when I heard that the show was making the jump to the big screen, I leapt at the chance to finally get in on the magic.
In this adaptation of the hit musical, The Last Five Years is a musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage taking place over a five year period. Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), a young, talented up-and-coming Jewish novelist falls in love with Cathy (Anna Kendrick), a Shiksa Goddess and struggling actress. Their story is told almost entirely through song. 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.
The camera work in this film is stunning; voyeuristic without being intrusive. The opening shot is very much an homage to Hitchcock‘s bird’s eye opening shot in Psycho (no story line similarities, I assure you.) The tinted lenses used to represent the good and bad in the relationship are thoughtful and extraordinarily effective for each emotional shift. There is something truly special about this film. It appears absolutely seamless as it bounces from timeline to timeline. Jason Robert Brown‘s lyrics are some of the most accessible in the industry. Think thought provoking, stream of consciousness, meets clever and catchy musical theater for the any audience. Anna Kendrick does some of her strongest work to date as Cathy. The opening ballad, “Still Hurting’ is a killer punch in the gut. This is tough stuff and she nails it. I was thoroughly impressed. The stickler in me wishes her presence had been a tad bit stronger when it came to sharing the screen with Jordan as he sings. There seems to be a slight disconnect when he takes center stage. But, I will say her acting chops on the heavier songs are quite lovely. Jeremy Jordan as Jamie is a stunner. From the moment he appears on screen, from the first note, he owns this character. I could not have asked for more from his performance. He lights up the screen, his voice is delicious, and he is an unapologetic scene-stealer and I am so fine with that. In no way is he obnoxious, or over-the-top. In my pretty harsh musical theater book, he gets an A+. Jeremy Jordan is a star. Standing ovation to director Richard LaGravenese. Successfully adapting a musical is a huge task. This film is so down-to-earth. You do not have to be a musical theater fan to enjoy this movie. That alone, makes it a hit. I highly recommend The Last Five Years and I guarantee you will walk away humming some, if not all, of these gorgeous songs.
The Last Five Years opens today!