Falling For It, by Rudie Obias
Adapting musicals from the stage to the big screen can be a difficult thing to do. While some are successful at opening up the world of the stage to film like the Academy Award winning Chicago, others struggle with keeping the sensibilities that made a musical interesting and exciting on the stage to a movie theater near you (like Disney’s Into The Woods). The latest stage-to-film adaptation is the off-Broadway musical The Next Five Years and it’s transition to the big screen is absolutely wonderful.
It’s really hard to gauge how non-fans of Jason Robert Brown’s musical will take to Richard LaGravenese’s big screen adaptation. The songs are wonderfully intact and alive, but its story and storytelling device (some would say gimmick) isn’t as obvious to the uninitiated. The Last Five Years follows Jamie and Cathy’s five-year relationship told from the couple’s differing points-of-view.
The movie starts with Cathy’s, from the end of the relationship, while the next scene features Jamie’s, from the very beginning. The Last Five Years is told backwards and forwards in a double helix structure of highs and lows of young love. It’s not very clear to those unfamiliar with the source material, but lives and breathes on the big screen for those who are fans.
Considering the structure, Jamie and Cathy’s point-of-view doesn’t sync up until the middle of the film when the couple gets married in Central Park, but until then Cathy experiences the lows of being in a toxic relationship and Jamie experiences the highs of being in love. Once the couple gets married, their points-of-view gets reversed. The relationship itself is the center of attention.
Richard LaGravenese’s contributions might seems static to some because the entire movie is wall-to-wall music, but it seems like he wanted to keep true to the structure and musical conceit of Jason Robert Brown’s work. LaGravenese takes an steady approach to the film, while the music and performances are the real stars of The Last Five Years. It seems like LaGravenese doesn’t want to get in the way, especially when he has a strong cast with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.
Although some might think its lazy, I think it’s quite an accomplishment to make The Last Five Years as witty and punchy on the big screen as it is on the stage, as the film’s co-leads are performing the music live (for the most part) as its being filmed. Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan shine in The Last Five Years, as they draw you into this broken relationship of two people wanting different things from life and each other.
The Last Five Years feels like a memory of a past relationship, but still has the immediacy and urgency of trying to mend one too. It shows that even a failed relationship isn’t a waste of time because it ultimately shapes who you are as a person, for better or worse. It’s the type of movie you can completely have a crush on.