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Film Review: 'The Last Five Years' - A Distinctive Approach to the Movie Musical Genre

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Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick in 'The Last Five Years.' Photo courtesy of RADiUS.

Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) and Jeremy Jordan (TV’s Smash) star in writer/director Richard LaGravenese’s film adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s Off Broadway musical, The Last Five Years.

Set in New York, the musical follows struggling actress Cathy Hiatt (Kendrick) and up and coming novelist Jamie Wallerstein (Jeremy Jordan), throughout the course of their five-year relationship and marriage. However the catch is in how the story is told. Cathy’s songs begin at the end of their relationship and go back in time, whereas Jamie’s songs start at the beginning of their relationship. At times, this led to some confusion in figuring out what point in time the film was at but didn’t distract from the overall story.

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Courtesy of RADiUS.

Cathy regularly auditions for roles, but can never seem to get the callback. She finds herself spending her summers in Ohio acting in a stock company. Jamie, on the other hand, finds early success and publishes his first book. As his star in the publishing world begins to shine, Cathy finds herself feeling inadequate about not matching his success. You see her struggling to be the doting and supportive wife, but she finds herself spiraling and feeling like she’s lost a part of her independence and identity to the man she married, which leads to problems for the duo.

I would never have guessed that this was the first major leading film role for Jordan, whose performance was packed with charisma, charm and emotion. The frustration that Jamie experiences as he tries to communicate with his wife about how her issues make him feel during “If I Didn’t Believe in You” is palpable as it is telling about the success he’s experiencing in his career.

The Last Five Years is another musical milestone for Kendrick, who brought a certain poise to Cathy throughout the happy times and the depth of heartache she endures during her relationship with Jamie. Her performances of both “A Summer in Ohio” and “Still Hurting” showcase two very different sides of her character and attests to why she was a phenomenal choice for this role.

 

The Last Five Years is a solid contemporary movie musical. It captures a seemingly idealistic romance and its unfortunate downfall, while taking a creative and distinctive non-linear narrative approach to this cinematic genre.