The Last Five Years, starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, is the perfect example of a simple movie musical.
Created by composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown, this musical follows a couple through the highs and lows of their five year relationship. However, Brown took an avant-garde approach to this musical. The two characters start and end at completely different parts of their relationship, meeting in the middle for their wedding, and then splitting off again. Kathy, played by Kendrick, starts the musical at the end of their relationship, singing “Still Hurting” as she reads the goodbye letter from her former husband Jamie, played by Jordan. The next scene opens with the two crashing into Kathy’s apartment, making out and showing off their fresh love. Jamie sings “Shiksa Goddess”, followed by Kathy’s “See I’m Smiling,” which is the last song she sings before Jamie ends up leaving her.
As a musical theatre purest, I was nervous going into the movie. Written in 2001, this Off-Broadway show changed the way audiences perceived the usual musical. With only two characters, a piano, violin and a few other simple instruments, Brown’s fictionalized version of his early life allowed the actors singing and stage-craft to shine through at the same time. Unlike most musicals of the 20th and 21st century, “The Last Five Years” keeps the actors onstage alone, except for the middle of the show, where they sing a duet at their wedding. I did not know how the movie would accomplish this, but once “Shiksa Goddess” started, I was content with the actors being in each others scenes.
A little dialogue was added in between each song, but other than those few lines, the movie was a dead-on depiction of the original show. Both Kendrick and Jordan sang each song live for more than 3/4 of the movie, solidifying their incredible talents. The two also created a beautiful relationship, through their harmonies, simple scenes and devastating looks they would give to one another. It’s incredible to hear these actors reach the extremely high notes of the complex songs with no problem whatsoever.
Directed by Richard LaGravenese, this movie is the perfect date-night movie. Or, for anyone who has an obsession with Kendrick, Jordan and/or musical theatre. It opens on February 13th nationwide.