Director: Richard LeGravenese
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan
Written by: Richard LeGravenese and (based on the musical play) Jason Robert Brown
Running Time: 94 mins
Hailed as one of the best new musicals in years, I went into The Last Five Years with high expectations and once again, this is something you should never do. My expectations were utterly crushed by a film that not only seemed to rely on mediocre music but a story that, quite frankly, was predictable and boring.
Jamie is a struggling writer. Cathy is a struggling actress. They meet, fall in love and get married. The story is played out from two different ends of the story, with Jamie’s upbeat viewpoint contrasting with Cathy’s more defeatist opinion, as their marriage hits a serious rocky patch.
The joy of watching a musical on stage is that you can immerse yourself with the events happening. Live theatre will always have that rawness about it that film cannot bring. So when you take a popular musical and “open” it up to the cinematic audience, you lose some of that energy, some of that bite that sitting in an auditorium brings.
So watching the film version of this two hander doesn’t have that lease of life you’d probably get in a more intimate setting, which magnifies the show’s obvious problems, that of an unusual approach to a modern relationship, delivered in a dull and uneventful way.
So we follow Jamie and Cathy’s doomed relationship (no spoiler there, the first song is about the end) from the ups to Jamie’s success as a writer, Cathy’s dismal failure as an actress to the temptations placed before Jamie to the crumbling of what was once so loving. Perfectly fine except here the majority of the dialogue is sung, in that strange Stephen Sondheim manner, where the occasional word is uttered before a full on individual musical number is performed, either by Jamie or Cathy or, for the odd number, together.
This is where the heart of the problem lies. The songs are just not that memorable. In fact, they all sound the same. One melodic tune after another and, apart from the amusing number where Cathy goes through the pains of auditions, they don’t exactly stick in the head. The one thing you do want to leave from a musical is a tune that you can hum, a song that stands out. You leave empty handed here.
The performances from the two leads, Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, are fine. Kendrick, already showing she can carry a tune in Into The Woods and Pitch Perfect, is all miss cutie-pie but this soon becomes draining and even her tuneful voice starts to grate. Jordan, on the other hand, is this side of annoying. Outside of the Broadway scene, he’s only really known over here for the short-lived TV show, Smash, and he too can certainly sing. Yet his character is so obnoxious it’s hard to really care for him.
I am sure that there are huge fans of the stage show who will lap this all up and who I’ve probably unset by my comments. But seeing the film and not knowing too much about the show, I have to take how I find and I was bored after 30 minutes, listening to this “perfect” couple. I just wanted the pair to stop singing and maybe just talk to each other. It might have saved their relationship.