Time to Remember
Musicals are a love it or hate it medium. Either you embrace the artifice of characters spontaneously bursting into songs that reveal inner thoughts and move the plot along or you reject it as forced and corny. I happen to be in the former category. What can I say? I am a musical theatre geek. Unfortunately not every movie adaptation strikes the right chords in their translation from stage to screen. Hollywood has a tendency to want to make them even bigger and flashier- using every trick in their arsenal usually resulting in overblown disasters. (see Annie. Or don't. Please don't)
That is why The Last Five Years is refreshing in its' smallness. Directed by Richard LaGravanese and based on the cult off-Broadway show it tells the story of a relationship with time crisscrossing backwards and forwards simultaneously. Sound confusing? Believe it or not, it isn't. We start off with Cathy alone in an apartment upset singing about the end of her marriage. We then jump back in time to the beginning of the relationship sung from the perspective of Jamie who is wildly enamored of Cathy. (The entire movie is sung through with very little dialogue,) Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) is a budding writer and finds out that his first book is to be published. Cathy (Anna Kendrick) is a struggling New York actress who can't seem to catch a break in New York and settles for bad summer stock in Ohio. The backwards and forward movement of the plot eventually meets in the middle when they get engaged and then continues on until both have reached the other side of the timeline- Jamie at the marriages' end and Cathy caught up in the fresh bloom of love.
Kendricks' voice seems a little thin at first but as the movie progresses it seemed to gain strength mirroring her state of mind (As the movie starts she is heartbroken and defeated. Pretty cool, huh?) This is some of her finest work- subtle and understated. Jordan is charismatic and energizing- he has the good fortune of his character starting off happy and buoyant filled with love and promise of success, thus allowing him to immediately win the audiences' love as well as Cathys. His songs tend to be on the showier side (one of my favorites The Schmuel Song is charming and funny) until the perspective switches.
There is nothing particularly revelatory or groundbreaking in the story (marriage is hard, they take a lot of work, success can overshadow everything, etc.) but the movement through the opposite timelines brings a freshness to the storytelling. The music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown are rich and vibrant. It took a few songs in to capture me but when it hits its' stride, I was giddy with excitement. There is nothing like that electricity you feel when art touches your soul . That may sound a bit over the top, but that is how it affects me. The funny thing with this piece is you know exactly where it is going and how it is going to end ( with the promise of new love and the future and the heartbreak of love lost) yet I still found myself in tears . The music and the performances excite me so much, I think as soon as I finish writing this, I am going to watch it again.
Did I say how much I loved it?
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