Musicals are not my bag, so I had to brace myself to watch The Last 5 Years, an adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s musical. I still ended up texting Lainey ten minutes in, electrically shouting that they wouldn’t stop singing because THEY WOULDN’T STOP SINGING. Musicals are inherently creepy—hey, you’ve just been stabbed, let’s stop to sing and dance about how you’re dying—but I can deal with the construct. I can, grudgingly, accept that in the course of a musical, people will spontaneously burst into song while lamenting depressing things like murder and AIDS. But I hate it when the whole musical is in song, because inevitably it means stuff that really ought to be plain dialogue is being bleated at me in unpleasant, atonal bursts. The Last 5 Years is guilty of this—song-fighting, who knew?—but it’s also guilty of inconsistency, which is even worse.
They sing everything, except when they don’t, and sometimes one person will sing while the other person talks and what is your reality?! If you insist on singing everything, then f*cking SING EVERYTHING. Otherwise, don’t sing everything, and let there be actual, spoken dialogue exchanges. Don’t make me sit through a fight scene in which one character speaks normally and the other one sing-yells because it makes an already uncomfortable fight scene even more uncomfortable. The singing partner comes off totally unhinged in the face of her lover’s normal intonations. Anyway, the inconsistency of the speaking-to-singing ratio means this is going to be an unwatchable nightmare for anyone who isn’t a hardcore musical theater geek.
I’m not even going to get into the songbook except to say that none of it is catchy or made me want to run out and buy the soundtrack. Also there is one song in which the main dude, Jamie, sings about how he’s blonde Cathy’s “Hebrew slave” and then he rattles off all the Jewish women he’s been with and basically says those Jewish broads can go f*ck themselves because all he’s ever really wanted is to bang a Shiksa. If I wasn’t so profoundly baffled by this song’s mere existence, I think I would have been offended on behalf of…everyone? I’m pretty sure that song offended someone. At the very least, it immediately establishes that Jamie is a dirtbag.
The Last 5 Years starts at the end, after Jamie (Jeremy Jordan, Smash) has left his wife, Cathy (Anna Kendrick). Kendrick has charm and presence for miles and at times she manages to inject some life and genuine emotion into the movie, but Cathy and Jamie are highly unpleasant people, so it’s difficult to really care about the demise of their relationship. Also it’s kind of hard to follow along because just as the talk-singing is inconsistent, so is the timeline. We jump around various points of Jamie and Cathy’s relationship, getting their differing perspectives—slightly more Cathy than Jamie, which renders Jamie even more unsympathetic—as they go from happy hipsters in Brooklyn to miserable assholes in Manhattan.
I think we’re supposed to be able to decode the timeline by the physical look of the film, but the lighting is so garbage that’s virtually impossible. At first I thought the flat, grungy look of the movie was just going to be the depressing “we’re getting divorced” opening number, and then it would burst into bright, beautiful color when we rewind back to a happier time. But the same flatness follows into the sunny yesteryears, too. The color scheme does change, but the lighting itself doesn’t, so the movie looks flat like a TV show (a problem it shares with Fifty Shades of Grey, actually). Unpleasant characters, unpleasant to look at—what exactly am I supposed to latch onto?
Well, I can get behind the line, “These are the people who cast Russell Crowe in a musical.” That got a laugh. And I’m down with the on-demand availability of The Last 5 Years, because that means you don’t have to spend $15 or even leave your house to watch it. But there’s really nothing else to invest in. There’s no big dance number to sweep you up, you will not get any of these songs stuck in your head because they are not memorable, and you won’t care about what you’re watching because Jamie and Cathy are awful people—Jamie slightly more than Cathy because he spends all his time singing about cheating and Shiksas. Hardcore MTGs MIGHT like it. That’s the best I can say about this movie—if you love musicals, you may derive some pleasure from watching these two assholes sing-yell at each other for ninety minutes.
Attached - Anna Kendrick at LAX yesterday.