“A good size chunk of my musical theatre geek friends _LOVE_ Jason Robert Brown. For some, you can’t go five songs into their ipods without finding one of his. Or others can’t walk past a piano without sitting down to play some JRB. So even though I haven’t seen The Last Five Years, I knew exactly what it was about and I prolly knew more of the songs than I realized.
Confession: I actually don’t care too much for JRB. He’s simply not my style. The very mellow piano heavy thing isn’t my thing, and while I appreciate some of his more contemporary lyrics, I don’t like songs that basically narrate the action. The less you’re likely to tell a song is from a musical, the more likely I’ll dig it. So if I don’t like the guy, why did I still wanna watch his movie? I was intrigued by the premise, and I thought maybe in context the songs would win me over. Spoiler alert: A few of them did, just not to the die hard levels of others I know.
The Last Five Years tells the story of Jamie and Cathy, from dating to wedding to divorce. Oh but it’s not a spoiler that I’m telling you the relationship ends. You see, Cathy starts at the end of the story and works her way back Memento-style. Jamie starts at the beginning and proceeds chronologically. They meet to marry in the middle (which on stage would be the end of act 1) and play out their stories to their ends. Gimmicky, sure, but unique and intriguing.
For the movie version, Jamie and Cathy are played by Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick, two actors well known and loved by the theatre community at large. They alone were reason enough for me to want to watch. So I got the BluRay as soon as it was available, and on a Fri night, after getting back from yoga and some quick gaming to unwind, I sat back to watch.
I thought it was great. Now that musicals have become more widely accepted, they tend to be these big lavish productions. This small and intimate one was a nice reprieve from that. Jordan and Kendrick did not disappoint, and yes, in the context of the story, the music made more sense to me. Some of it was still a little too I-am-singing-at-you-what-Im-doing, even if it wasn’t directly narrating action, but I still found myself anxiously awaiting the next song.
My one complaint is that the timeline got confusing. I knew the whole backwards criss cross thing, but once we crossed, I couldn’t figure out what fit in between where. There were some visual queues to guide that, but I think it made it even worse for me. I do get the sense that on stage it works better, since you really would have to depend on the words to establish the setting. THey tried to skirt that on film and it just got a little muddled. Maybe I just need to watch it again.
Oh and for some added musical theatre geekery, there’s a scene where Cathy is auditioning for a show. I was looking at the scenery behind her and I thought “”hey that kinda looks like it could be the Avenue Q set”” (seeing as how I’d directed a production of Avenue Q two years ago, I should know what the set looks like). Sure enough, IMDB trivia cofirmed it for me.”