“The Last Five Years” is the type of movie that you have to watch twice before you can fully appreciate it. I was disappointed after my first viewing but something kept drawing me back to it in the days that followed. The story was simply too fascinating to stay away. As the movie progressed the second time through, I fell more and more in love with everything about it. The nonlinear story structure can be confusing at times but when you reflect on the concept as a whole, it is genius. You need to be aware that Jamie’s songs move forward chronologically while Cathy’s songs move backward through time. Aside from being a really cool storytelling technique, it helps to strike a balance between happiness and sadness throughout the story. If we experienced both characters’ perspectives in a traditional chronological order, the latter half of the film would be unbearably depressing. That being said, this story is still a complete downer. I don’t care for all of the strong profanity but, particularly early on, it helps to establish the devastating circumstances of Cathy (since we don’t yet understand how she got to this point). This two-man show requires a lot from its leads and they are certainly up to the challenge. Anna Kendrick gives a powerhouse performance, perhaps the best of her career. Her vocals are impeccable with her recitative style singing perfectly expresses her strong emotions. Beyond her singing, her facial expressions and body language bring the character to life. Jeremy Jordan is a bit less impressive but still delivers a memorable performance. “The Schmuel Song” is his shining moment. The original stage production calls for the characters to sing their songs as solos and it really comes through in this number. I find his character to be a little annoying at times, but his voice is golden and he has great chemistry with Kendrick. The decision to have the characters present for each others’ songs was a smart one in that it develops the chemistry, but they still manage to preserve the solo feel of each number. Jason Robert Brown’s songs are incredibly catchy and very well-written. The “na na na” section of Schmuel, the “Jamie-land” sections of A Part of That, and the cleverly-changed lyrics in “When You Come Home To Me” are just a few examples of what I love about this musical. He even captures the grit of a severe argument in "If I Didn't Believe In You." There is so much sheer beauty in the melodies throughout the score. In many of these songs, a lush melodic line suddenly appears midway through and grabs your attention. The highlight of the entire film is “The Next Ten Minutes,” which is the midpoint of the story and the only song that the leads fully sing together. Honestly, it is one of my top 5 moments in all of musical theater. “The Last Five Years” is a refreshing departure from your typical Broadway show, tackling brutally painful content through the shifting optimistic and pessimistic perspectives of its characters. Even the sad moments are beautiful in a tragic way. Be prepared for some strong content when you watch this film and realize that you will have to watch it twice to fully absorb its brilliance, but once you do it may change your opinion of modern musicals forever.
[Pictured: This is one film that gets better every time that you watch it]