Alternatives is the tagline feature for other forms of entertainment outside of discussing literature. These posts may encompass television, movies, games, and music with a randomized flavour of the moment approach to each post.
Movies – The Last Five Years (2015)
Genre: Musical, Romance, Drama, Comedy
Duration: 94 Minutes
Directed/Written By: Richard LaGravenese
Music/Lyrics By: Jason Robert Brown
My sales pitch to all you book bloggers: writing and publishing is part of what makes one of the characters. Random House is also involved. Plus, it’s a musical. So…
The Last Five Years is unfamiliar territory for me. I knew nothing of it besides being a musical written by Jason Robert Brown (of Parade fame). Word to the wise: there is a lot of singing; a lot a lot. Like 1% dialogue to the other 99% sing-talking a lot. The tunes were true to the heart of the musical but personally, they aren’t songs that I’d belt in the shower. Perhaps I’m just disappointed in that regard—but this might change sometime in the next five years.
So overall—it was just okay.
It took a bit of self-reflecting to understand what the fuck was happening. The story feels immediately disjointed balancing the moments of glorious bliss of newfound love with the scorched earth of a shattering marriage, but it is on purpose. You see: the narrative portrays Cathy and Jamie’s relationship both chronologically from “start to finish” (through Jamie, played by Jeremy Jordan) and reverse-chronologically from “ending to beginning” (via Cathy, played by Anna Kendrick). I have drawn up a general emoji-sketched timeline for you to better understand what I’m saying—
Jamie begins the film jauntily in love with his new girlfriend and relishes in his breakthrough authorship in the publishing industry. This is juxtaposed against Cathy being heartbroken and angry; the product of a failed marriage and her dissatisfaction in finding her own acting successes. Throughout the film, viewers enjoy moments of their lives that built-and-destroyed their romance. The rule of thumb is this: whoever is singing is the perspective you’re witnessing.
I read on the Intarwebs that in the Off-Broadway musical, Jamie and Cathy are only on stage together once; during “The Next Ten Minutes”, denoted as #3 in the timeline. In the film, however, it seems they took creative liberties to keep the other half “inclusive” in the scene as visual cues to remind viewers that they were in-fact still together. And the only time I think it really paid off was during Jamie’s “The Schmuel Song” which allowed Kendrick to improvise and add natural quirk to her role. Otherwise, songs like “Summer in Ohio”, has Cathy singing about her colleagues while Jamie sits in front of the webcam all hot and bothered, emoting derpy faces, and just “being there” without actually being there. It has its limits.
What strikes me most is my lack of empathy for these two characters. I watched them smile and suffer and understood the growing disparity in their relationship; but I didn’t feel much for it. It is an intimate narrative—we watch a marriage relationship crumble and burn…only it felt distant. The meaning that would otherwise have been laden throughout the poignant lyrics seems lost in constant camera shot changes (not saying that a continuous shot would have been more effective). Personally, it just wasn’t a gripping film experience but I can understand the power the broadway version might bring.
The Last Five Years lives and dies by their actors as they are the only individuals with singing roles throughout. Both Jordan and Kendrick were solid in their parts, with Kendrick being the better half. (Or I could be just extremely biased.) As much as I really do enjoy Kendrick’s presence in these roles, I really hope she doesn’t pigeonhole herself into strictly singing gigs (re: Into the Woods, Pitch Perfect). But on a deeper level, I think the specificity of the roles allowed both actors to dig deep into their own perils of breaking into the entertainment industry, and part of me wants to believe in that kind of honest acting too.
Despite the faults I have with the film as a whole, everything it tries to sell is raw, honest emotion. That’s what I’ll walk away with; people go through this shit every day and there will be those who can relate to Jamie and Cathy and those who can’t, but it certainly doesn’t stop us from understanding this weird experience of life.