Starring: Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan
Directed By: Richard LaGravenese
I’m a ridiculously huge fan of the musical The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. I was even excited when I heard it was being made into a movie, and that two “legit” singers were playing the roles of Cathy and Jamie. I was actually excited for Jeremy Jordan as Jamie, because he can sing his face off. Be careful what you wish for…
Since the film is basically the original score by Jason Robert Brown adapted into scenes that make cinematic sense, with some added dialogue, I basically love the core material. The Last Five Years follows the five year relationship of Jamie and Cathy, seeing it from their perspective at different ends of the relationship. Basically, the characters trade punches (or solos), with Cathy starting at the end of the relationship with the ridiculously perfect Still Hurting, and Jamie starting with the “oh, so that’s how they’re going to film that” Shiska Goddess. In the stage version, Cathy and Jamie only meet for The Next Ten Minutes in the middle of the show. In the movie, however, each actor is fully present in the others scenes. So, when Cathy is singing “See I’m Smiling” to Jamie, they are actually on a dock, and he interrupts her to let her know he can’t stay, which she is then able to sing about. It’s filling in the blanks, basically, and I’m OK with that.
My deepest problem with the movie is that Jeremy Jordan, whom I love dearly as a stage actor, has a tendency to overact on film. It was something I hadn’t really realized before because his screen credits amount to (basically) Smash. But it is all very big, and very theatrical. He’s still playing to an audience in the cheap seats who need to feel his emotion, instead of realizing that everyone has a fairly equal seat in the audience when watching a movie. Because of that, there’s no authenticity in his performance. It can even come off as a little cartoonish, or even manic at times. One of my favorite songs in the show, If I Didn’t Believe In You, was ruined because it seemed like Jordan was bursting with energy in what should have been a much more somber, more tired moment for Jamie. Instead of being able to show the exhaustion of Jamie having to have this conversation over and over, it came off more like he just had a Red Bull (which no longer gives you wings).
Vocally though? He’s on point. He’s everything I had wished for in a singer, but he just needed to balance both better. Kendrick, who has had way more film experience than Jordan, was able to do just that. So not only is she a great singer (her Still Hurting is seriously the best number in the show), but she matches it with her performance. There really isn’t a supporting cast, so it rests all on the hands of the two leading actors.
Overall, I was giddy to just sit there and watch my favorite musical unfold as a movie. It took me a minute to even really be negatively affected by Jordan’s acting, because his first two solos are so upbeat, that his over the top acting wasn’t hindering those songs. It wasn’t until Jamie was required to start taking the emotional plunge that I noticed that Jordan couldn’t turn that off. I still enjoyed the film. It moves at a quick pace, and I think all the new things that were brought to the film by Richard LaGravenese make sense in the context of it being a film, and not some avante garde piece.
The Last Five Years is a much more realistic portrayal of two people in a relationship than that other shitfest that opened this weekend, Fifty Shades Of Grey. So, if you’re looking for romance, pick this film. Nobody needs to know.
FINAL GRADE: B+