The Last Five Years follows a young couple through the highs and lows of love in the city. Based off of the acclaimed off- Broadway musical written by Jason Robert Brown, we meet Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) and Cathy (Anna Kendrick) as they first meet in NYC, falling into a swirling hot and heavy romance.The musical begins from Cathy's perspective and ends with Jamie's. We get to see both sides of the love story, something I bet we all wish we could do in real life when looking at our own failed relationships. Jamie is a struggling writer while Cathy is a struggling musical actress. They become inseparable , they fall deeply in love, they get married. Things seem to be going great when Jamie sells his first novel, but we learn through Cathy's perspective, she feels left behind, only to soon learn from Jamie's perspective, he feels held back. Thus the 5 year romance hits rocky waters, and eventually comes to a bitter end. Cathy becomes resentful toward Jamie that she never makes it in her career, despite Jamie cheering her on. Jamie lets his successful career and popularity become more important than Cathy, and he looks to other woman to feel needed when Cathy won't communicate with him how he wants her to.
Director Richard LaGravensese does a beautiful job communicating the distinct differences between Cathy and Jamie's perspective. The musical, and therefore the film, only stars 2 actors, and is told entirely through song, so in my opinion taking on adapting to film was a huge risk.The transition from the first act, Cathy's view, to the second act, Jamie's view, was flawless. However, it did reveal a weakness in the film, Kendrick. The first act seems long and dragged out, but when we get to Jeremy Jordan as Jamie, it felt as though the film came to life. "Still Hurting" is the films opening number, and the general fan-favorite song of the entire musical, but unfortunately Kendrick lacked the emotional depth it requires to set the tone and engage the audience. It's sung as Cathy reads the note left in their apartment that Jamie has left her. The marriage is over. Usually there isn't much Anna Kendrick can get wrong, but this she did. Her vocals were so ear piercingly flat and nasally at points, you had to squint your eyes just to get through it. What should have been the most moving moments are bland and lifeless. It's a shame really. However, relief sets in when up and comer Jeremy Jordan (Smash) takes the vocals reigns and you feel like you are watching a star. As an actor, he grew emotionally with Jamie throughout his 5 years with Cathy, at some points he's the sweetest boy in the world, and others, you clench your fists dying to know what is causing the torment in his sad eyes. I wish Kendrick's performance could have met him there, it would have made the movie a 10.
Being a musical, there is also something to be said for the fitting adaptations of some of the shows best sings in the film. It's a pop-musical, more modern in style. Kendrick's vocals miss the emotional highs that so many of Cathy's numbers need to hit, so songs like 'Climbing Uphill' fall disappointingly short of Sherie Rene Scott's original cast recording of the song. However in swoops Jeremy Jordan to save the day with numbers like 'If I Didn't Believe in You' where he pours his heart out to Cathy, desperately trying to break through he walls she's built against him. By far though, the greatest number in the film happens to include them both actually, and thank God they did it right, I couldn't handle them messing this one and 'Still Hurting' up in one fell swoop. In 'Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Couldn't Rescue You' Jamie and Cathy's perspective unite at last, Cathy at the beginning, and Jamie at the end. We see Cathy with eyes bright and in love after Jamie and her had spent their first night together. She is hopelessly younger and sings the promise of happily ever 'Goodbye Until Tomorrow' after as she escorts Jamie out of her place, she wants him to leave before the magical moment of the night disappears. She never wants to forget how she feels in this moment and won't let anything ruin it. Simultaneously we watch Jamie write Cathy a letter, explaining he's taken his things, and is leaving her. He walks out of their apartment, seeing Cathy at that moment only 5 years prior, and sings to her that he couldn't rescue her, he's sorry, and he has to let go. It's a painfully beautiful moment seeing the stark difference that only 5 years has made. It's the best part of the entire film. Bravo, Mr. LaGravensese. Bravo.
It's hard, adapting stage productions into film, much less a musical, without making it too over the top and without alienating audiences that have never been t a theater in their lives. I'm not sure if The Last Five Years will reach that audience, but I hope it does. It's a beautiful realistic film, a love story we all can relate to. There are 2 sides to every story, if only we could just see beyond our own, maybe it wouldn't have ended. Who knows. I'm proud of this film and it's ode to the original material. It was a lovely rick I'm glad that was taken, and worth you dime, but budget an extra 10 dollars because you'll want to buy the accompanying soundtrack the minute you leave the theater so you can feel all the feels from the movie again. Oh feels, even the bad ones are good to feel sometimes. Brace your heart, and goodbye until tomorrow.
The Last Five Years in in theaters and On Demand Now!