Synopsis: The Last 5 Years is a musical chronicling a love affair and marriage taking place over a five year period. Jamie Wallerstein is a young, talented up and coming novelist who falls in love with Cathy Hiatt, a 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.
Release Date: February 13, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Romance, Drama
For the last thirteen or fourteen years, musical theater writer/composer Jason Robert Brown’s simple-yet-emotionally effective The Last Five Years has been toiling away around the world, even playing to Off-Broadway crowds. As is the case with all good musicals, a movie adaptation was bound to happen, and in this case, Beautiful Creatures writer/director Richard LaGravenese is just the man to do it.
The Last Five Years tells the story of a couple, Cathy Hiatt (Anna Kendrick from Into the Woods and Up In The Air) and Jamie Wellerstein (Joyful Noise‘s Jeremy Jordan), over a five year period that spans from the beginning to the end of the relationship. Cathy, an actress, meets Jamie, a writer, and they fall in love, move in together, get married, and divorced, all while navigating the ups and downs of their respective careers and personal lives.
It’s not really a spoiler to say that they end up divorced, because there’s a cool little gimmick to the way that the story is presented. Jamie tells his side of the story in chronological order, beginning at the beginning, while Cathy tells her side starting at the end and looking back on their time together in reverse. This is a good thing to know going in, because the film is a little confusing without this knowledge. However, once the dual timeline thing is figured out by the viewer, it’s an incredibly effective and engrossing way to tell the story. The characters are isolated by their own recollection of the events, only coming together to sing one duet at the midpoint of the film when their timelines intersect at their engagement/wedding. The wedding seems to be the only event that the two remember in the same way. The differing timelines are a clever way to reveal where things went right and wrong for the two lovelorn leads of The Last Five Years.
As far as Hollywood musicals go, they don’t get much better than The Last Five Years. Those who don’t mind most of the story being told through song will enjoy it thoroughly. The Last Five Years is a unique romance movie for the jaded and heartbroken as well as the hopelessly in love.
The music of Jason Robert Brown anchors The Last Five Years, and it’s an amazing soundtrack. An overwhelming majority of the dialogue in the film is sung, and the very personal songs give the viewer insight into what is going on inside the heads of the characters; the songs provide exposition and tell the story, but they also paint pictures of Cathy and Jamie, for better or for worse. Some of the songs, like the opening number “Still Hurting” in which Cathy sets the stage for the couple’s divorce, are absolutely heart wrenching, while others, such as the whimsical “Summer in Ohio” during which Cathy sings to Jamie about her theater residence, are hopeful and uplifting. Whether the songs are happy or sad, they make the audience feel an emotional attachment to the characters, and that’s quite an accomplishment. It’s an added bonus that the songs are catchier than the measles at Disneyland. There’s no going wrong with the soundtrack to The Last Five Years.
With the instant costume changes and the elaborate set pieces, The Last Five Years is obviously a movie, and director Richard LaGravenese approaches the story and songs in a very theatrical way. The musical numbers are full of long takes and slow fades that let the viewer soak up the songs without being distracted by the illusions of filmmaking. The music aids the movie in this regard; there’s a seamless integration within the songs, with the melodies and harmonies related just closely enough to ease the scene transitions. It also helps that there is a natural chemistry between Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan that LaGravenese knows exactly how to exploit and encourage. LaGravenese concentrates on all of the theatrical aspects of the show so that it makes no apologies for being based on an off-Broadway musical. The Last Five Years is everything that a movie adaptation of a stage musical should be.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Richard LaGravenese
- Screenwriter(s): Richard LaGravenese
- Cast: Anna Kendrick (Cathy Hiatt)Jeremy Jordan (Jamie Wellerstein)Natalie Knepp (Alise Michaels)
- Editor(s): Sabine Hoffmann
- Cinematographer: Steven Meizler
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Jason Robert Brown
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA