If there's one film you simply cannot miss, it's The Last Five Years, a glorious feel-good romance that celebrates the art of musicals. The Last Five Years is a rare not-to-be-missed film that comes along once in a lifetime, featuring a young couple singing about their failed marriage from two perspectives.
This musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage takes place over a five-year period. Jamie Wellerstein (Jeremy Jordan) is a young, talented up-and-coming Jewish novelist who falls in love with Cathy Hiatt (Anna Kendrick), a Shiksa Goddess struggling actress. Their story is told almost entirely through songs using an intercutting timeline device; all of Cathy's songs begin at the end of their marriage and move backwards in time to the beginning of their love affair, while Jamie's songs start at the beginning of their affair and move forward to the end of their marriage. They meet in the centre when Jamie proposes. Its beautiful pop music score portrays an honest, heartbreaking, often funny, exploration of love and its consequences on individual identity.
It's not a compilation of popular songs, but features an absolutely superb music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, an American musical theatre composer, lyricist, and playwright whose music sensibility fuses pop-rock stylings with theatrical lyrics - he won Tony Awards for his work on the musicals, Parade and The Bridges of Madison County.
Brown's sumptuous The Last Five Years has been magnificently adapted for the big screen by Richard LaGravenese, best known as the writer of The Fisher King, and who directed memorable films like Behind the Candelabra, Unbroken and The Mirror Has Two Faces.
Unlike the show, in which the solos are sung in isolation and the viewer must imagine the presence of any other characters in the scene, the scenes in the film directly depict interaction between the two leads and occasionally other people (though still only one character sings in most scenes, as in the play).
Catchy tunes and first-rate direction
If there's one reason more to see The Last Five Years, other than its catchy tunes and first-rate direction, it for the magical teaming of Kendrick and Jordan.
Kendrick, who rose to international fame after her performance as Natalie Keener in Up in the Air (2009), for which she received Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, also starred in the Broadway musical, High Society (1998), for which she was nominated for a Tony Award, and was recently seen in Into The Woods, is also the star of Cinderella and Pitch Perfect 2.
Broadway star Jordan is best known for the roles of Jack Kelly in the 2012 musical, Newsies, and Clyde Barrow in the 2011 musical, Bonnie & Clyde, was seen in the film, Joyful Noise, and joined the cast of the second season of Smash.
It is truly amazing how Kendrick and Jordan captivate from start to finish, drawing you into the drama through song.
It all began in 2009, when award-winning actress Sherie Rene Scott, who starred as Cathy in the original 2002 Off Broadway production, met Richard LaGravenese at an audition for P.S. I Love You. Richard explained to Sherie that he was obsessed with the album and thought that it should be a film and that he had every shot in his head.
It was at that point, that Sherie said: "You really need to call my husband because he felt the same way." Richard and Kurt, co-founder of Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, met for breakfast the next day and began a five-year partnership to make this dream become a reality.
If you want to experience the vibrant energy of musical theatre at its best, The Last Five Years guarantees to turn you into an instant fan of this wonderful genre that marries song and drama.
Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit www.writingstudio.co.za