Blame it on work or relationships or really burning through awards season. I’ve got eight hopeless reviews in draft mode, and while I’ve been seeing movies in theaters and at home and on planes and trying to fulfill my #52FilmsByWomen challenge… there hasn’t been anything posted in a while, huh? But tonight I finally sat down to watch The Last Five Years. Building on Jason Robert Brown’s musical of the same name, the film focuses on the relationship between Cathy (Anna Kendrick) and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan). What makes it far more interesting than a love story is that it starts with Jamie and Cathy telling it from beginning and end, respectably. That, and it’s a musical. Because of the alternation of devastatingly sad and heart-fluttering cute, it’s an emotional tour de force complete with both actors belting their hearts out.
Brown was a big deal among kids I grew up with (no, seriously, worship level), so I knew the songs but had never seen them performed, and was admittedly wary of it. At the start though, the typography was nice and the film started with credits against a black screen, New York City’s own sounds in the background. In this immediate nod, the city became the third character. Part of what makes Years so intimate and sad is that you know nothing of anyone but Cathy and Jamie. Even regarding those two characters, we know very little about them other than their relation to each other and their jobs. Jamie is a wunderkind author while Cathy is a struggling actor, and the portrayal perfect. From phone calls and Skype dates to living together and attending work functions, there is clearly effort being put into showcasing the growth (and decay) of a relationship.
The camera angles are sweeping, often feeling handheld (maybe some were handheld?) to the point of disorienting a viewer. The color correction makes some scenes nearly neon, with trees far greener than need be. Kendrick’s blonde hair and Daisy Mae sweater are incredibly distracting. If you don’t like musicals, skip Years. It’s cheesy and nearly all sung and occasionally features choreography from plot bystanders, but if you like musicals you can look over all of this and become sucked in. From the first note of “Still Hurting” (if you went to theatre camp, you know it) you’re done. And at an hour and 34 minutes, you can afford to be.