It’s Anna Kendrick’s pipes again, now with feeling

FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Last Five Years
RPL Film Theatre
June 12-14
3.5 out of 5

One of the surprises of my career as a critic is how much I dig musicals. By far the most contrived of all movie genres — far surpassing horror and science fiction — a musical has to be terrible to have no value (Stage Fright comes to mind. Also, Rent). The heightened emotions and additional layer of artistic craft are the most likely explanations, I guess. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for singing.

The Last Five Years it’s a musical at it’s most simple: Two actors and a bunch of quotable songs. It’s the story of two people falling in love, and out of it: Cathy (Kendrick) is a wannabe actress whose career choices are slowly destroying her joie de vivre. Jaime (Jeremy Jordan, Smash) is a would-be writer who becomes increasingly callous as he becomes successful.

The fundamental disconnect between Cathy and Jamie dooms the relationship. Sure, Jaime cheats and is all too willing to put his career ahead of his wife, but Cathy is hard to be around and increasingly a shell of her former self.

The Last Five Years doesn’t take sides which lets the audience project their own issues onto the flawed couple.

The film makes one critical mistake that affects the audience’s enjoyment. Jaime’s story starts at the beginning of the relationship while Cathy’s starts at the end — they only meet at one point, their wedding. There’s no signpost in the film cluing the audience into this strange story structure — we have to figure it out — so anyone who doesn’t recognize the device is likely to be baffled.

The Last Five Years is based on a successful off-Broadway production (the author’s ex-wife threatened him with legal action due to the similarities with their own story.) The songs are wonderful, some with a contemporary twist. It must be said, Cathy’s tracks are better: “A Summer In Ohio” is a hoot, “See I’m smiling” is rough and “Still Hurting” is quietly devastating. The film is worth the price of the ticket, and getting the soundtrack.