While most moviegoers rushed to theatres this weekend to see the controversial Fifty Shades of Grey, musical theatre aficionados celebrated the release of The Last Five Years.
Only 95 minutes long and based on the 2002 musical of the same name, The Last Five Years is a charming little indie film with a big heart. The musical tells the story of young New York City couple, Jamie and Cathy’s, five-year relationship, from their hopeful beginning to their tragic demise. While it could easily serve as a weepy The Way We Were-esque story, The Last Five Years is unique; the musical favors a more artistic form of storytelling in which Jamie’s story is told in proper chronological order and Cathy’s is told in reverse chronological order. Cathy’s story begins at the end of the relationship and Jamie’s begins at the start. The two eventually meet in the middle for a beautiful duet in which Jamie proposes to Cathy. Unlike the stage adaptation, which featured each actor alone on stage, the film has both actors sharing the screen throughout the film-which makes for an even more comedic yet heartbreaking story.
Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Into the Woods) shines as aspiring actress, Cathy. Her musical performance could rival that of original cast member Sherrie Renee Scott (who has a small cameo in the film), and her acting is nothing to poke fun at. Kendrick is slowly becoming Hollywood’s token musical actress and for good reason! The opening number of the film, “I’m Still Hurting,” features Kendrick sitting alone at a desk as she sings about losing her husband. The number is ridiculously moving and reminded me of Anne Hathaway’s Oscar-wining performance in Les Miserables. Where there is tragedy there is also comedy, and Kendrick alternates seamlessly between the two.
Jeremy Jordan (Broadway’s Newsies, Smash) portrays Cathy’s husband, Jamie. Like his leading lady, Jordan seems comfortable in the iconic musical theatre role, and gives a beautiful performance. He and Kendrick play well off of each other and their chemistry is flawless.
Directed by Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You), The Last Five Years also serves as a treat for musical theatre fans as the film is filled with hilarious one-liners and musical theatre references. My personal favorite being composer, Jason Robert Brown’s, cameo as an accompanist at one of Cathy’s auditions. Long time fans of the soundtrack will be sad to learn that most of the musical’s poignant F-bombs have been removed from the script, probably due to the PG-13 rating. Not to worry though, the script does feature several new and noteworthy jokes that help maintain the musical’s comedic charm.
Bottom Line: The Last Five Years is a fine example of a back-to-basics film and is one of the better stage-to-film musical adaptations in recent years. Very little has been changed from the original stage production and what has been changed works well within the context. This film was not designed to please mass audiences (though I know it will!), instead it functions more so as a love letter to Broadway fans and longtime fans of the musical. The film has so much to offer and should not be missed.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Mallory Delchamp is a writer, model, and performer living in Manhattan. You can routinely read her film and music reviews here on Pop-Break and you can also check out her work on zumic.com and nytheatreguide.com. A social media and pop culture enthusiast, Mallory also enjoys musical theatre, superhero films, and drinking coffee. You can visit Mallory at her website, www.mallorydelchamp.com