Based on Jason Robert Brown’s Off-Broadway hit, “The Last Five Years” is a musical about half a decade in the relationship of struggling actress Cathy (Anna Kendrick) and novelist husband Jamie (“Smash” star Jeremy Jordan). Told from two perspectives the story weaves and bobs as we’re told, simultaneously, about the birth and death of their love affair.
Her tale begins with the breakdown of the relationship. His starts at the beginning (it’s a very good place to start, as they say in musical theatre) as they court and eventually marry.
There are some undeniably winning moments in ”The Last Five Years.” Sitting alone in her—formerly their—apartment, the opening number is a somber examination of the aftermath of a divorce. “Still Hurting”—“ Jamie has new dreams he’s building upon, And I’m still hurting.”—takes a risk by kicking things off on a downbeat note but Kendrick’s tender, heartbroken delivery is a welcome doorway into the relationship.
It’s Kendrick’s earnest commitment to the material that keeps “The Last Five Years” afloat. Her scenes are, by and large, terrific—although her line “I’m up ev’ry morning at six, And standing in line, With two hundred girls who are younger and thinner than me,” sounds a bit ridiculous coming from the lips of the wispy actress—but she is let down by the staging of the film hat confuses minimal staging with intimacy. No chandeliers fall from the ceiling. There are no giant puppet giraffes. Instead director Richard LaGravenese adopts a very natural look and tone that suits songs like the opening number but is less effective on the bigger numbers like “A Miracle Would Happen.”
Then there is the unusual story structure. The he said/she said construction, played forwards and backwards, negates the possibility of a clear-cut climax. Add to that the non-chemistry between the leads and you have an all-singing-all-dancing musical that falls flatter than Britney Spears with a broken Auto-Tune machine.