Directed by Richard LaGravenese, US, 2015
Good acting can save mediocre writing. It can’t do anything for bad writing. Enter the this month’s adaptation of The Last Five Years.
The Last Five Years is an interesting musical. It focuses on a couple who has recently broken up. Both characters are staged separately. The male lead sings songs from the start of the relationship to the end, the female lead sings songs from the end of the relationship to the beginning. It is the ultimate low budget stage production and it works as a stage production.
Anna Kendrick (Cathy) and Jeremy Jordan (Jamie) lend their considerable vocal and acting talents to the story’s two roles. They can’t overcome the fact that story just doesn’t work as a film.
By bringing the actors together for the entirety of the story, the separated storyline aspect is entirely lost. It does not feel like a story about both characters, but rather a story of a woman who naively falls in love with a self-centered jerk.
If the characters were separate I could see how Jamie’s songs would come across as being that of a man who is growing further apart from his emotionally distant wife. By bringing the characters together on the screen throughout the entire film all of his songs sound like the rationalizations of a total creep.
Likewise, if the actors were separated Cathy’s songs could be read as coming from an emotionally distant woman who is a bad match with her outgoing boyfriend/husband. By bringing both of the characters together we only see how Jamie ignores her, yells at her, and seems to only like her because of the novelty of dating someone outside of his faith.
If staged properly both characters could be shown as sympathetic, just young, inexperienced, and a bad match for each other. Unfortunately the film makes Jamie as unsympathetic as possible while giving the audience every reason to sympathize with Cathy. This lopsided depiction of the characters drains all of the fun out of this film, which after all, is a musical.
You might like The Last Five Years if: You played Cathy in the stage production.
You might not like The Last Five Years if: You enjoyed the stage production, since this film is a poor adaptation.
(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe