MOVIE REVIEW – “The Last Five Years” is a timeless musical that will pluck at your heartstrings.
By Zaida Diaz, Valley Life Editor
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, “The Last Five Years” is bound to burst a few bubbles. It’s the type of movie that girls will watch curled up in bed with their good friend, Häagen Dazs and a box of tissues.
The film, adapted by Richard LaGravenese from Jason Robert Brown’s Off-Broadway musical, is about a five-year relationship between gifted novelist Jamie Wallerstein (Jeremy Jordan) and struggling actress Cathy Hiatt (Anna Kendrick). The once-happy couple had set out to accomplish their dreams together. However, as Jamie succeeds, Cathy languishes in the shadows, putting a strain on their marriage.
Although the musical will surely attract female viewers, it depicts both Jamie’s and Cathy’s perspectives, making it relatable to both sexes. It takes on a mature and holistic approach as it recounts the love affair.
The film demonstrates the passionate feelings that take place during the “honeymoon” phase (see clip below), as well as the process of falling out of love. It explores the characters’ thoughts through songs that are profound, touching and sometimes humorous. Kendrick and Jordan deliver great, committed performances. Kendrick’s charisma and playful nature is matched by her fantastic singing.
The chronology is unique in that Jamie’s songs start at the heady beginning of the romance and move forward, while Cathy’s songs begin at the rocky end of their marriage and track backward. Their stories meet in the middle with a duet, the moment they decide to marry. The structure gives the audience a feel for the highs and lows of the relationship.
The visuals are right in tune: The camera movements and color palettes bring out the mood of each scene. In the dynamic story song “Schmuel,” after Cathy comes home from a bad day at work, Jamie bursts into song to lift her spirits. He moves around their apartment in a silly fashion, picking up props to act out the story. Throughout the number, he reveals an array of ornamental lights and colors that conveys the couple’s love; the camera quickly circles around them to capture the building joy.
A high contrast to this scene is Cathy’s opening song, “Still Hurting,” where she is sitting alone in their half-empty apartment. Kendrick delivers a beautiful rendition of the mournful number; the visual presentation is grey and static. The camera and viewers are fixated solely on Cathy’s anguish.
The emotional roller coaster that is “The Last Five Years” is definitely a ride worth taking.
3.5 stars (out of 5)
“The Last Five Years” hits theaters and VOD on February 13
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, brief strong language and a drug image