31 May, 2015

Review: "The Last Five Years" (****)

Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick star in "The Last Five Years." 

Richard LaGravenese’s adaptation of “The Last Five Years” opens with Cathy (the charming and endlessly talented Anna Kendrick) walking slowly through a nearly-abandoned New York City brownstone singing one of the films best and most poignant songs, “Still Hurting,” a deep and chilling number about the aftermath and heartbreak of a once dreamy relationship with Jamie (the dimpled and big-voiced Jeremy Jordon, Tony-nominated for his performance in "Newsies") that has now turned sour and cold. “The Last Five Years” the film was inspired by and derived from Jason Robert Brown’s off-Broadway production that had a short, successful run. I never saw the play (believe me, I wish I did), but let me tell you, this movie is wonderful.

I think it should be noted for anyone interested in seeing this film, “The Last Five Years” is a musical. There are very few spoken words, which, at times, can give the film a sort of imbalance, but even those moments of imperfect tone seem honest. “The Last Five Years” is told from two perspectives, both Cathy's and Jamie’s, and it moves in opposite directions. Cathy shows us their falling out of love and Jamie shows us their falling into it. Only briefly, for once song, in the middle of the film in the middle of Central Park, do their stories overlap.

This is a film, where at the very center, at it’s bleeding, pumping heart is just that, a heart. Jason Robert Brown’s arrangements and lyrics are beautifully honest, so much so that sometimes it’s hard to watch Cathy and Jeremy sing them to each other. They’re packing enough charisma and punch and tension and sex and pain into each song that there’s barely enough room left at the end to catch your breath before they dive headfirst into the next number.

It’s a raw portrait of what it means to be in love; it’s uncompromising and unapologetic. And LaGravenese does a fantastic job of mimicking that sensation within the look and feel of the film. It’s unencumbered and unpolished. Because it was shot in city streets and real apartments as opposed to a traditional sound stage, “The Last Five Years” has this grimy kind of earnestness about it.

It could be my simple and unaltered love of musicals (or indies, or Anna Kendrick), but I give this film four stars. It doesn’t deserve anything less.

4 out of 5 stars.

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