Starring: Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan
Do you like musicals? Do you like your romantic comedies w/ a touch of Blue Valentine? If you're like me then you probably answered no to both questions. With that in mind I loved The Last Five Years, partially because of the non-linear structure, partially because of the stunning camera work from Steven Meizler but mainly because of the two lead performers.
A film like THE LAST FIVE YEARS hinges on the likability of its stars and this movie is incredibly well cast. After seeing the film I cant picture anyone else in these roles. Anna Kendrick consistently makes interesting choices, even in the films that don't completely work for me she is always compelling. I had never seen Jeremy Jordan before but he is well known on Broadway for roles in NEWSIES, ROCK OF AGES and WEST SIDE STORY.
I'm by no means an expert on musical theater or filmed musicals so any of the claims that follow should be taken in that context. Most of the big Hollywood musicals and (while I'm thinking about it) romantic comedies/dramas are overly sentimental, saccharine and completely disconnected from any relationship that I've ever been in. While it is refreshing to spend time with characters who are nothing like me and mine, its difficult to emotionally invest in them when they are in no way grounded in this world. That's whats so striking about LaGravenese's THE LAST FIVE YEARS, how connected it is our world. Musicals already exist in a hyper reality where people express their thoughts in song so to use that conceit to tell an honest story was surprisingly effective.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS has the aesthetic sensibility that you would expect in a big Hollywood musical but undercuts it with the lyrics and structure. The film opens with a hauntingly beautiful song from Kendrick at the end of the couples relationship and follows it with a song from Jordans point of view at the beginning of their relationship. We have a back and forth where the couple eventually meets in the middle at the moment Jordan proposes. This is an incredibly effective narrative device that is both bitter and sweet. I can't believe that one of the most honest looks at relationships in recent memory came in the form of a musical. Don't get me wrong this isn't BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN or BLUE VALENTINE but its closer to those than it is to GREASE.