★★★★| The Last Five Years

The Last Five Years is a rare breed. It is an (off) Broadway Hit Musical that has been very successfully adapted as a movie and avoided the disastrous transition from stage to screen that usually ruins most of Broadway’s exports.

The simple story explores a five-year relationship between Cathy, a struggling actress, and her boyfriend Jamie who is a new novelist destined for big things. The show bravely tells Cathy’s story starting at the end of their marriage and working backwards, whereas Jamie’s is told in chronological order.

With very little dialogue this two-hander is a series of songs with the couple singing to each other about their romance as it takes off and then falls apart, and in fact there is only one number in the middle of the movie when they sing a duet. So Cathy starts with her sad lament Jamie it’s Over’whereas Jamie’s exuberant first song Shiksa Goddess is about when they first meet and he totally falls in love with her and declares she can be anything, but preferably not Jewish as his Orthodox family had pressured him for years.

As the title gives away the young couple meet, fall in love, marry and then part all in five years. Cathy gets stuck midway doing Summer Stock Theater in Ohio (!) whilst Jamie’s literary success makes him the toast of Manhattan. Evidently so closer based on composer Tony Award Winner James Robert Brown’s own life that he had to change one of the original songs after his actress ex-wife threatened legal action.

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It is completely enchanting and although sometimes the songs are a tad more passionate than the actual relationship, the infectious score and the very witty lyrics make this movie such a sheer delight. Credit too for a rather wonderful performance from rising star Anna Kendrick who showed in Into The Woods recently that she can sing as well as she can act. She is teamed with handsome Jeremy Jordan (from TV’s Smash) who is obviously a seasoned musical performer.

The original stage show was first produced in Chicago in 2002 before setting in off-Broadway and picking up a few Awards. It has aged well with time, and this movie adaption from director Richard LaGravanse (‘PS I Love You’) will appeal to people beyond the usual musical aficionados.