The Last Five Years Review

The Last Five Years

As a dedicated non-fan of musicals who’s never caught an original theatrical run, I’m probably not the audience Icon had in mind for their The Last Five Years flick.

The only musical I ever recall enjoying was The Blues Brothers, and that’s mostly down to some well-choreographed car chases. And of course, several highly-quotable scenes to stitch the songs together.

So it was with some horror that the first song of The Last Five Years was immediately followed by another song.

And another.

And then another, while I waited in vain for something approaching dialogue.

A similar realisation no doubt hit audiences of Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, the trailer of which may not have been altogether honest on how little dialogue was actually featured in the final film.

The film tells the story of Cathy Hiatt and Jamie Wellerstein, a young, creative couple living in New York: she’s a struggling actress, he’s a rising-star novelist. We know from the off that these two are not meant to be, and the film then expands on the reasons why.

The songs were written by Jason Robert Brown, a playwright and composer who purportedly based the story on his own failed relationship to actress Theresa O’Neill.

The structure initially seems a little jumbled, á la 500 Days of Summer, but there is some logic to the sequence of events: the scenes sung from Cathy’s perspective are told from the break-up backwards, whereas the Jamie-led scenes are more chronological.

This all may sound intriguing as a concept, but the only time the structure packs any sort of emotional punch is the final scene, a duet in which Cathy is excited about her new relationship whilst Jamie is simultaneously packing his bag and moving out, resigned to the fact that the relationship is over.

The rest of The Last Five Years is a different matter, when you’re dealing with two characters who are either subsumed with their own success, or resentful of another’s, no amount of scene-reshuffling will make me care one jot about either of them.

Fault doesn’t entirely lie with the actors. I admittedly found it similarly difficult to care about the two lead characters in one of the last films of director Richard LaGravenese, PS I Love You.

Anna Kendrick, whose all american wholesomeness can be pretty divisive, puts in a strong physical and vocal performance as Cathy, but her character is written a little simpering at times and hard to root for.

Stage musical veteran Jeremy Jordan basically plays Jamie as a big cheesey grin with a person attached. When he’s not belting out numbers about how great his life is, he is warbling about giving in to the temptations of his new-found success.

As for the music: I have tried to be open-minded given my feelings on the genre, but the songs just all seemed a little too bland and generic for my liking. Not one note stuck in my head upon leaving the screening room.

Safe to say, this is probably one strictly for musical aficionados or fans of the original.

Conor Brennan

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April 2015
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