The Last 5 Years Movie Review

We are thrilled to welcome Ari Weinberg to our organization as the Intern Artistic Director. He will be a regular contributor to “Musical Notes” as he shares his experiences transitioning from a career as an actor to an Artistic Director.

Disclaimer: The Last 5 Years opened off-Broadway in March 2002, the cast recording was released that April. So, by September 2003 (as I started my first year in Sheridan College’s Music Theatre Performance Program) the sheet music was out and everyone was singing it. The songs were an intrinsic part of my college experience.

Another movie musical, but a fairly contemporary one. Was it going to be like Rent? (Shudder.) Because that didn’t movie from stage to screen so well. Les Mis had its moments (and some moments we should all forget). Hairspray worked for the most part. Everyone loved Chicago.

The trials and tribulations of adapting a musical for the big screen… and yet, here at TIFF 2014 was the world premiere of The Last 5 Years, a show that most die-hard musical theatre fans hold in quite high esteem. It has a pretty terrific score by Tony award winner Jason Robert Brown (sound familiar, Parade fans?), and a very simple story/concept.

The show spans the five year courtship and marriage of Jamie and Cathy; he starts the show at the beginning and moves forward, she starts at the end and moves backward. They meet together and sing together once in the entire show- for the wedding/proposal.

Canadian Stage did a well-received production of the show in 2004 that featured phenomenal performances by Tyley Ross and Blythe Wilson.

It was announced last year that The Last 5 Years was going to be turned into a film starring Anna Kendrick (Camp, Pitch Perfect, Oscar nominated for Up in the Air and soon to be Cinderella in Into the Woods) and Jeremy Jordan (Tony nominated for Newsies and was cast in the short lived TV show Smash) directed by Richard LaGravenese (who wrote The Fisher King and Bridges of Madison County).

I don’t think anyone knew what to expect. On Sunday September 7, 2014 it premiered at TIFF and…..

IT WAS AWESOME!!!!

Like totally, seriously, awesome.

They didn’t screw around with the material. They didn’t add any new songs. They just did The Last 5 Years. It was really refreshing to watch. Sure, the concept got a little lost on screen (time sort of blurs after the wedding, and on stage the songs are essentially soliloquies and on film they have each other to act opposite), but it was fun. Summer In Ohio, a sweet homage for anyone who has ever done summer stock, is one of the funniest numbers I’ve seen in a movie musical (it received two rounds of applause during the screening). The heart-wrenching ballads (Still Hurting and If I Didn’t Believe in You) packed an emotional punch and, in my humble opinion, Kendrick and Jordan have tons of chemistry. It just all sort of worked.

In fact, I want Anna Kendrick to be in all the musicals now; if the Gypsy remake ever happens I vote Kendrick for Louise! I am now obsessed with her voice – it was perfect for the JRB material and her acting was top notch (in a post screening Q&A Richard LeGravense shared that the actors improvised a lot of their scenes in the film and she has some pretty funny quips).

Jeremy Jordan delivers the strongly acted, well sung performance that fans would expect from this musical theatre star; should he decide to leave musical theatre, he could have a super career in soap operas (he’s pretty darn handsome).

The Last 5 Years is an easy to watch 94 minutes, it never feels slow or drawn out, it takes you on a journey through a portion of two people’s lives – it’s got laughter, tears and a lot of heart!

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a video from The Leading Ladies of Broadway (she was Tony nominated in 1998 for Best Supporting Actress in High Society):

 

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