For all you theater lovers, the recent film rendition of Jason Robert Brown’s musical “The Last Five Years” was difficult to come by – particularly if you were anxiously waiting for the film to be released in theaters.
The film, starring Tony nominee Jeremy Jordan and Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick, was only released in select theaters and became available on video on demand on Feb. 13, 2015.
Although this disappointed many fans who had planned to see the film for Valentine’s Day, the refreshing new take on the musical – incorporating both a well-known movie actress and a Broadway leading male – definitely lives up to expectations.
“The Last Five Years” tells the five-year love story between Jamie Wellerstein, a successful novelist, and Cathy Hiatt, a struggling actress. Their story is told in reverse chronological order. Jamie’s story begins right after he meets Cathy, while Cathy’s story starts when her marriage with Jamie ends.
Although the storyline may be confusing for someone unfamiliar with the musical, the film portrays a realistic love story – one that faces both highs and lows. The story shows how both characters’ understanding of their relationship collides, allowing the audience to better follow the story from both Jamie and Cathy’s point of view.
The story ultimately proves how there are always two sides to every story.
Jordan and Kendrick play newlyweds whose worlds are turned upside down once marriage complicates their relationship.
Jamie and Cathy’s relationship is difficult to follow, mainly because the story is told in random order. However, certain thematic cues are evident throughout the film that help the viewer follow the story.
When Jamie is telling his version of the story, he is the primary singer during the scene, and vice versa when Cathy tells her side. “The Next Ten Minutes,” or the proposal scene, is the only moment when Jamie and Cathy sing together at the same point in the story, symbolizing the midway point where their opposite stories meet.
To better understand the flow of both characters’ stories, it is important to pay close attention to the lighting within each scene.
The beginning scenes of Jamie and Cathy’s relationship feature sunny days and bright vibrant colors. This is when their love is strong and passionate. When their relationship starts to take a turn for the worse, scenes are shot with a gloomy background and shadows cast upon the characters’ faces, representing sadness and emotional pain.
Another piece of advice: Keep an eye on whether or not Jamie or Cathy is wearing a wedding ring during each scene.
Aside from the storytelling, Jordan and Kendrick sing their way through the entire film with strong vocals that stay true to their characters.
As a Broadway star, Jordan kills his solos with an unbelievable vocal range. He shows his versatility in “The Schmuel Song,” in which he sings with multiple accents. Kendrick, whose musical theater repertoire ranges from “Pitch Perfect” to “Into the Woods,” provides an emotional and more mature character whose singing portrays both happiness and sorrow.
The chemistry between Jordan and Kendrick make their love story believable and realistic, showing both the good and bad times couples face during a marriage.
“The Last Five Years” manages to make a film from a traditionally two-person staged musical and captures two sides of the same story using thematic cues and two strong theatrical actors.