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  Last Five Years, The Sing It Back
Year: 2014
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan, Natalie Knepp, Marceline Hugot, Ashley Spencer, Nic Novicki, Rafael Sardina, Wade Dooley
Genre: Musical, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cathy Hiatt (Anna Kendrick) sits alone in her home, contemplating her heartbreak now that her marriage has split up, the apartment she used to share with her ex-husband feeling very grey and lonely now she isn't in love anymore. She thinks back in the good times she had with Jamie Wellerstein (Jeremy Jordan) and tries to trace the exact path they took that went so wrong, leaving her unsure whether romance is ever worth it when for her, the odds are that having a man in her life will not fulfil her, and that perhaps nothing will. Back when they met, Jamie was delighted with her as she made a change from the Jewish girls he usually went out with, he called her his Shiksa Goddess...

A very pessimistic musical where the future of a love affair was concerned, The Last Five Years was adapted from the popular stage musical of the same name penned by Jason Robert Brown, in turn based on his first marriage, which goes to show you with creative types, they're always looking to turn their experiences into some kind of art or other. In this case it earned Brown a hit, and as had been the case with many such productions the moviemakers came a-knocking and asked for the rights. So it was that the film was released quite some time after the stage show had been debuted, and also like too many recent musicals from that source it wasn't exactly a blockbuster at the box office.

But then, maybe it wasn't really intended to be, it could be they were hoping for a sleeper hit in the way of Once rather than the flop bombast of Rock of Ages, and if that were true then this may have satisfied them as there was a small but hardy core of fans who warmed to the movie, though they may have been fans of the original show as well. Certainly director and screenwriter Richard LaGravenese didn't attempt to appeal to very many beyond that centre, as though the location filming opened the drama out to an extent, it wasn't exactly On the Town. Indeed, there wasn't much dancing at all, just singing and lots of it, with the odd item of spoken dialogue to break up various setpieces.

You could argue it was all setpiece and no filler, but if you were not attuned to the finer points of Broadway musicals as they had become over the decades, you would be wondering where the big showtunes were. Although there were pretty enough tunes for Kendrick to trill, and Jordan got to be more muscular in his vocals for his songs, it wasn't really a work where you'd emerge from it whistling the best ditties, and it was more keen on using the melody to deliver the would-be poignant lyrics than opportunities for the audience to add to their repertoire of material to belt out in the shower of a morning. For that reason much of The Last Five Years sounded fairly samey, happy songs alternating with sad ones, depending whereabouts we were in the plot.

Therefore we began with Cathy mourning her ruined relationship, then the next scene would be Jamie five years before that joyously proclaiming his appreciation for his new love, and so on until the timelines met in the middle with a wedding, whereupon they moved past one another to end up with Cathy reminding herself how happy she was when they got together and Jamie in some kind of personal hell of affection-free sexual encounters (nothing too explicit, but you got the idea). To pile on the misery, Jamie's writing career picks up significantly when he's with Cathy, but her career as an actress in, you guessed it, musicals stutters and falters before it has really got anywhere. It's perfectly accurate to say that you can enjoy a musical about a pretty sad situation if the songs are strong enough, take one of the greatest ever made, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for example, where that's precisely what happens (and was presumably an influence here), but after ninety minutes of these two harping on about their problems it grows tiresome, not offensively so, but not hugely engaging either.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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