With the tagline ‘there are two sides to every love story’, Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years is a deconstruction of a marriage set almost entirely to music. We meet Cathy and Jamie, a struggling actress and a successful writer, and are taken through the story of their troublesome relationship on two alternating timelines. Whilst Jamie tells the story from his and Cathy’s first meeting through to the divorce, Cathy recalls it from the end, looking back over the last five years.
Whilst it would appear an interesting idea to look at the relationship from start to finish in such a way, if I’m being honest, I found it all a little bit confusing. With the timeline constantly switching, and it not being made clear that Jamie and Cathy’s storylines were alternating, I struggled to keep up and piece the story together as a whole.
This is a musical designed to be performed by only two people, and whilst there may be brief appearances from other characters for the film adaptation, the main bulk of the story is carried by the characters of Jamie and Cathy. Here they are played by Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick respectively. Both impressive vocalists and performers in their own right, together they have a believable chemistry with Jordan playing the much more confident Jamie well and Kendrick suiting the role of the more reserved yet passionate Cathy. That being said, it feels a shame that the story is rather hurried over the 90 minute running time, leaving very little space for character development.
In regard to the music, it’s well written and well performed, if rather wordy in places perhaps. Some of Cathy’s faster paced numbers, in particular ‘See I’m smiling’ remind me of songs from Into The Woods with it’s speed and complexity. With the entire film being pretty much sung through, there’s a lot of songs to get into but sadly, for me, they didn’t really stick. They weren’t catchy, I didn’t finish the film and have a song stuck in my head for the rest of the day, they were all actually rather forgettable.
Having heard many good things about The Last Five Years, I have to admit that I was quite disappointed by the film adaptation. I found the alternating timelines hard to follow and whilst you can’t fault the performances of Kendrick and Jordan, a lack of character development and memorable songs really lets it down.