If you go in blind, you’re going to leave that way. This past week, The Last Five Years, based on the musical written by Jason Robert Brown, premiered. While most musical fans will rejoice over the film adaptation, those who aren’t overly fond of production numbers as problem solvers will be at a loss.
The story explores a five-year relationship between Jamie Wellerstein, a rising novelist, and Cathy Hiatt, a struggling actress. Their story is told almost entirely through songs using an interweaving time line. 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 center when Jamie proposes.
Unless one did their research prior to seeing the film, this chronology won’t make much sense. While the cast is refreshing and sincere, the movie definitely struck a few awkward notes in its transition between the stage to the big screen. In the stage adaptation, this play gives off charm and appeal, but to this writer most of it is lost in the cinematic universe. Adapting a hit stage production to the big screen is always a bit challenging. When it’s a full blown musical, the challenge grows exponentially. Surprisingly, it’s not the talented leads that provide the interest here and hold the focus, but rather the story structure.
While the lyrics are clever and adequately describe each relationship change, the repetitive lyrics and non-stop singing prevent the viewers from ever connecting to the characters, and more importantly prevent them from understanding how these two characters ever connected to each other in the first place. Rather than tell a love story, it comes across as a moment of passion that turns into a relationship between two people who don’t have much in common and don’t particularly care for each other. Without giving away any spoilers, at the end of the day the story comes full circle; sunset to sunrise, and sunrise to sunset. What it comes down to is the lack of spirit in the music and the 90 minutes of the same two voices that prevent this from being something special. For the average movie-goer, it’s definitely a “pass at the theaters and wait for it at Redbox” movie.