I’ve been on many dates in my time. They all come in various shapes and sizes, and can have varying results by the end of the night. You may find the love of your life, or the one person you never want to see ever again. But either way something happens, and in some very rare moments, you can indeed find the one you’ve been looking for. A new movie, adapted from an Off-Broadway show, The Last Five Years, explores the ups and downs of a young couple’s romantic relationship from first date feelings to separation.
Right from the start, we see the unwinding of this young couple. Anna Kendrick plays Cathy, the now depressed and broke actress who has just read the letter that explains why Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) left her. We then, from Jamie’s perspective, see how this whole relationship began. From that point forward, the film showcases important highlights from the lives of these two, going to the beginning of Cathy’s involvement, and leading to Jamie’s breaking point.
The Last Five Years offers some solid musical movie moments, along with some incredible performances. Finally, someone has given Jeremy Jordan a platform that shows his charms and talents as a young actor. He has this beautiful mixture of youthful spunk, with an old soul showing through, which also perfectly explains his vocal qualities. In one scene, in which Jamie explains the hardships of post-marriage life, we see both Jeremy’s comedic excellence and his vulnerability as a dramatic actor. He’s a star that will hopefully now get his moment to finally shine.
But the one that really knocks it out of the park here is Anna Kendrick. She, like Jeremy, is a talent I’ve always wanted people to respect, ever since I saw her in CAMP back in 2003. She’s an old fashion movie star, one that is a triple threat, to which this movie beautifully represents. The standout moment, “A Summer in Ohio” is the kind sequence many girls will try to replicate at high school theater auditions for years to come, and Kendrick’s sassy take has a lot to do with that.
That kind of comment can also be said about the majority of Jason Robert Brown’s beautiful compositions. Each song is better than the one before, and perfectly transforms these typically cookie cutter characters into full fledged human beings. And with the confident directing of Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You), this could be one of the most faithful stage-to-movie adaptations to come out in some time.
But, with that loyalty to the source material comes the one glaring flaw of the film: Time itself. Yes, the story relies quite a bit on the use of flashbacks, which, if you were like me and had no knowledge of, it’d be very hard to exactly identify when these time shifts occur (except for the few lyrical/prop mentions, here and there.) Yes, the change in cinematography does allow us to grasp the shift but, in some sequences (specifically those in a park or outdoor settings), it is hard to realize when it is supposed to take place.
Eventually, one will get the pattern of our character’s stories, but this doesn’t become clear enough until the last 20 or so minutes, which sometimes can make for a truly confusing movie-going experience. But, for those that know what they are getting into, these shifts should be a lot easier to process.
With that said, in a genre known infamously for changing some of the greatest theatrical productions into brain mushing generic garbage, it’s refreshing to see a movie musical that doesn’t pander to the usual basic movie going audience, and instead explores what made this show great in the first place: its bold take on a simple boy meets girl story. One known well by the majority of the population, but rarely ever seen through such an interesting lens.