February 25, 2015
"The Last 5 Years" is about a couple whose 5-year relationship had gone awry. However, the story was not told nor staged in a linear fashion. We first see a distraught young lady named Cathy still hurting about her lost love. We then see an excited young man Jamie who just met the ideal goddess for his life. They would alternately sing one "stream of consciousness" song after the other to tell their story. Cathy's was going backwards, as Jamie's was going forwards. At almost exactly the halfway point of the show, they finally sing together what would be their wedding song.
In the play I saw, even if I already knew what was going on, it was still difficult to understand every little story they were telling. The songs sung to tell the story were not exactly easy on the uninitiated ear because of their unusual melodies, discordant notes, and repetitive loops. I watched this film after I have seen the play, so I already knew the flow of the story. But more than that, being more visual with the setting and background characters, the movie made the story clearer than the play. In the play, the actors were pantomiming a lot so it was harder to understand what was happening.
This is not an easy musical for everyone to digest or like. I may be in the minority here, but I cannot say I enjoyed watching this play. The running time was only one and a half hours (without intermission), but it seemed to just be going on and on without making much sense, even if I already knew what was going on. The time-bending storytelling gimmick by writer Joseph Robert Brown was innovative, but for me, it did not really work on the stage. It did not give me a chance to get to know these two characters enough to commiserate with their predicament. The singing talents of the stars who played Cathy and Jamie (Nikki Gil and Joaquin Valdez) were the saving graces of the theater production I saw.
In this movie version, Jamie was played by Broadway actor Jeremy Jordan, while Cathy was played by Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick. How they attack their roles determine who the audience will be sympathizing with between these two flawed characters. Was Director Richard de Gravenese biased? I thought while Jordan played Jamie as chipper and likable, Kendrick was playing Cathy as such an annoying nag. Is is Kendrick's sharp facial features or her shrill voice (be it in speaking or singing)? The Cathy in the play I watched did not come across as irritating as she was played here by Kendrick.
I still do not like this negative love story too much. I thought the film would add further dimensions, but it did not do so significantly as it followed the musical play to the letter. The limitations of the play became the same limitations of the film. 5/10.