Monday, February 09, 2015


Usually movie musicals are lavish spectacles. Hugh Jackman and a thousand peasants. Julie Andrews and Nazis. Giant budgets, and in the case of INTO THE WOODS, giants. Very rarely does a movie based on a musical play in art houses. Most open big in glorious Technicolor in movie palaces that once showed SPARTACUS and SUPER FLY.

THE LAST FIVE YEARS, which opens this week in New York, LA, and maybe your town if TRANSFORMERS 5 isn’t still playing, is a small but delightful movie musical. (I understand it may also be available on VOD.)  If you’re into musicals or are already familiar with the show this is just your dish, but even if you’re only a casual fan of people breaking out into song in Manhattan without being arrested (like me) you’ll thoroughly enjoy this film.

Before I discuss the story and the score, let’s first get to the big reason to see it: ANNA KENDRICK.

LAST FIVE YEARS is essentially a two-hander, and Jeremy Jordon holds his own nicely, but Anna Kendrick is luminous. You’ve heard her sing in PITCH PERFECT and (for those that saw it) INTO THE WOODS, and you’ve seen her act in UP IN THE AIR. There’s no question, she’s the real deal. And in this film she just lights up the screen. She’s funny, touching, adorable, heartbreaking, and playful, which is hard to do all in one song.

The story itself is rather ingenious. It follows the five year relationship of a young couple, Cathy & Jamie, but through each of their sides. In Jamie’s case the show moves from the beginning to the end of their relationship. In Cathy’s version it goes from the break-up to their meeting. In the theatrical version, they alternate scenes, singing solo on stage. The only time the two actually are on stage together is when their stories intersect in the middle.

What writer/director Richard LaGravenese has cleverly devised is a way to have them both in every scene, and it makes all the difference in the world seeing them able to relate to each other throughout. (And it means more screen time for Anna.)

The story is told almost entirely in song.

For that to work, obviously the songs better be great. And in this case, they are. Written by Jason Robert Brown (who has more Tonys than shelf space), and semi-autobiographical, the songs are filled with emotion, keen observations, humor, and depth. I saw a preview of the film and would cheerfully see it again. You couldn’t drag me to see LES MISERABLES a second time.

Assuming it’s playing in your city… or state or you can access VOD, check out LAST FIVE YEARS. Did I mention it stars Anna Kendrick?


Oat Willie said...

Wasn't there some kind of award show on last night? I don't know because there was a "Bob's Burgers" on and I was taking a coffee nap that went south.

Anonymous said...

Me, my wife and two daughters love musicals, saw Pitch Perfect and Into The Woods, but were totally unaware of this movies existence until I read your blog just now. How come the Hollywood PR machine has failed so spectacularly here?

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, this is a tiny independent movie made on a small scale and outside of the major Hollywood system. More a labor of love than a band-wagon attempt to cash in on the ever-growing popularity of the movie musicals.

Most likely the distributors/producers don't have the funds to spend on extensive ad campaigns and are relying solely on word of mouth, screenings and fans of musicals to spread the love.

I'm sure you'll hear about it in the months to come as it builds popularity.

MikeK.Pa. said...

Unrelated to the post, sad to see the passing of former U. of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith. He was not only a coach of players but a molder of men. His kind come along a couple times in a generation. John Wooden was iconic; so was Dean Smith.

Also, sorry to see former NBA referee Norm Drucker passed away. During his heyday in the 1960s, a lot of the referees had personalities that weren't off-putting (like say MLB umpire Cowboy Joe West). Refs like Joe Gushue, Mendy Rudolph and Earl "Yogi" Strom made the calls entertaining. But that was back when the NBA was more fun, played games at neutral sites, had doubleheaders and gave foul shooters 3 chances to make 2 shots whenin the bonus.

Sorry for the digression. I know some of Ken's readers don't like sports or aren't in the U.S. and have no point of reference.

Anonymous said...

What time is the Grammys on? Can it be viewed online?

Also, I saw a documentary about the World Trade Center bombing and it seemed alot like a controlled demolition. I don't understand how both towers could have fallen from just one plane crash. Please explain?

VP81955 said...

To Anonymous: The twin towers were felled by separate planes 18 minutes apart. I know, because I was working in New Jersey that fateful morning and heard reports on the radio.

Joe B said...

Completely off-topic but couldn't figure out a way to contact you directly.

Is it more fun or rewarding to write serious speeches in sitcoms in contrast to funny ones?

Take for example Frasier's monologue in the pilot where he berates Martin for being ungrateful. Or another one during the episode called Dark Victory where he criticizes the whole family for taking him for granted. Or the all of the Frasier's Edge episode where he goes head-to-head with his mentor. Just masterful.

Anonymous said...

have you ever seen Arrested Development? that was some serious comedy. you should try to write more shows like that and I'll watch it.

Anonymous said...


Gregg said...

This has nothing to do with "The Last Five Years" or movie musicals. I just saw an announcement that Paramount is releasing a "Complete Series" set for "Cheers." Same DVDs as before. Just reassembled into one big box.

What irked me was the cover art for the box, which crowds the series regulars together into a Photoshopped group shot. Well, not quite all the series regulars. Nicholas Colasanto is noticeably absent.

I have no plans to buy this, because I already have the individual season sets. I always liked Colasanto, though, and just hate to see him left out.

Diane D. said...

I LOVE musicals but I am so afraid this will not come to my town, and I don't know what VOD is. Does anyone know where I can see this movie?

BillU said...

you know that Cheers bar in the airport? is that where the show was filmed?

Anonymous said...

VOD stands for Video on Demand. He's referring to the streaming video services. Netflix, for example.

cg said...

Jason Robert Brown is incredible. The LA production of "Parade" a few years was one of the most affecting musicals I'd seen, and I've seen a lot (and TR Knight did a great job making the transition from TV to stage musical in that show with help from a voice coach). Unfortunately JRB's "Bridges of Madison County" closed on Broadway despite its beautiful score and the current production of "Honeymoon in Vegas" starring Tony Danza is struggling with weak ticket sales.

Breadbaker said...

The time shifting and different points of view reminds me of this play I heard about that premiered recently in LA.

X or Y or something like that. Didn't star Anna Kendrick, although I wouldn't be surprised if the author is pushing for her for the Broadway version.

Diane D. said...

Thanks Anonymous!

Mike said...

In Jamie’s case the show moves from the beginning to the end of their relationship. In Cathy’s version it goes from the break-up to their meeting.
Throw in amnesia and it's Memento the Musical.
"Do I know you?"
"Do we share this apartment together?"

Prove you're not a robot.
Have you ever thought how unfair this is on robots?
"Being a robot suxx. Beep. Whir. You're never allowed to comment on the interwebz."

Lionheart said...

Jeremy Jordan, not Jordon, for those setting up wishlist search on Comcast

Emy Chinen said...

This album is awesome. Anna Kendrick kills it! Waiting to see the movie as well!