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USA 2014
Directed by
Richard LaGravenese
94 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

The Last Five Years

Synopsis: The history of the relationship between twenty-something New Yorkers, Cathy  (Anna Kendrick), an aspiring actress, and her novelist husband, Jamie (Jeremy Jordan).

The Last FIve Years is an adaptation of an off-Broadway stage musical by composer Jason Robert Brown.  Exactly how it has managed to travel this far is a mystery as on-screen it is a truly awful experience, about as close to 90 minutes of chalk on board as you are ever likely to experience.  From the opening seconds of the opening number with Anna Kendrick grieving for her now gone Jamie, you'll suspect that you’re in trouble. And believe me you are.

Virtually everything about this musical is wrong.  Almost entirely sung, always a difficult act to pull off,  the main problem is that it feels so derivative, the only difference being the downward emotional  trajectory. The musically undistinguished Stephen Sondheimish songs are lyrically clever but more or less all sound the same, each one seemingly cut-and-pasted  from some other musical, as Jamie’s career takes off and Cathy’s does not. Why the whole shebang emphasizes a Fiddler On The Roof style Jewishness complete with a song about an Olde Worlde tailor and Cathy being passed off as a shiksa goddess is not clear – perhaps it has something to do American theatre demographics (stereotypical gayness is also factored in a comedy number “A Summer in Ohio”).

Anna Kendricks has made a successful career playing perky young femmes, as in the Pitch Perfect films, often singing but she is no Striesand and what she does to these songs you don’t want to know.  The buffed Mr Jordan who isn’t remotely suited to the role of a literary wunderkind at least isn’t as vocally hard to take but frankly both of them are so obnoxious that you are more likely to wish them ill than otherwise.  

Probably problems with the performances are exacerbated by Richard LaGravanese’s directorial approach which despite the naturalistic settings maintains a hyperbolic stage style for his performers, something which results in a self-consciously forced tone which only further alienates us from them as characters.  

All up, The Last Five Years is a rather deluded project.  Presumably it worked on stage but on the evidence here there’s simply not enough in it to merit it being turned into a film.




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