The Last Five Minutes - A Review of the Film The Last Five Years
For me, there has been no more exciting composer-lyricist regularly represented on Broadway in the last ten years than Jason Robert Brown. Every project he touches drips with a fierce honesty and lyrical poetry that sets him apart from just about everyone writing these days (save Adam Guettel). There is something inherently theatrical about the premise of each piece, which is probably why they register so beautifully on the stage. I admit that I was skeptical about how a film version of Brown's The Last Five Years would play. It turns out that my concerns were well-warranted.
Let me begin by saying that the singing in this film is exquisite. In fact, I found that if I closed my eyes and drowned out the film's sloppy cinematography and strident editing, I fell in love with the piece all over again. Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan are both adored for many reasons, but this film accentuates the best of their voices without mining the best of their acting abilities. In fact, both of them seem to be frozen into generalized caricatures: she a despondent wreck, he a hyper-spastic jerk. A little more variety would certainly have helped us to distinguish between the juxtaposed timelines of each of their stories, and it certainly would have made them more sympathetic.
This is a static film, but the material really doesn't support opening up beyond what is done here. It just begs for a breath now and again, and deserves a director who knows how to navigate these variances. This is why I think The Last Five Years is so much more satisfying onstage. The film, in fits and starts, shows signs of coming to life and then resorts back to the status quo or takes giant missteps such as a particularly odd and slightly creepy dance sequence outside the Flatiron Building.
It's in the last five-minutes of the film that this cinematic interpretation finally works. She's standing on the stoop of the building looking in the window, imagining the wonderful life they will have together. He is in the window looking out, thinking back on all of the pain that they shared. Their gazes cross and their stories finally collide. It's a heavenly, subtle moment. It's a shame the rest of the film cannot balance such simplicity with such beauty.