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The Last 5 Years by Tony award winning composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown is a musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage taking place over a five year period. Jamie Wellerstein is a young, talented up and coming Jewish novelist who falls in love with Cathy Hiatt, a Shiksa Goddess struggling actress. Their story is told almost entirely through songs using an intercutting time line device; 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.Written by
Great as a musical, doesn't quite translate as a film
Theater kids and Broadway buffs are going to toss their cookies over the movie adaptation of The Last Five Years.
The Last Five Years is the film adaptation of Jason Robert Brown's synonymously titled Chicago premiered and often revived off-Broadway musical.
I never saw the musical, so the movie adaptation The Last Five Years is my first encounter with the material. Cathy is a struggling actress and Jamie is an up-and-coming novelist. They fall in love but happily ever after is not meant to be. The musical looks at the love affair and marriage of Jamie and Cathy over the last five years. Cathy's songs begin at the end and dissolution of their marriage while Jamie's all start at the beginning of their whirlwind romance. The songs and differences in time are told as a narrative by alternating between the two until they meet in the middle. And just an FYI for those that are on the fence in their love of musicals – The Last Five Years is a story that is told almost entirely through song, so you might want to skip this one if you are swaying toward 'nay' in your appreciation.
It seems as though The Last Five Years respects the musical's material to the letter and takes no liberties through the art of adaptation, though I can't say for sure without seeing the actual stage production. Twenty minutes into the film and there have already been four songs and a constant stream of music in the background. As a story of a relationship that ultimately ends in failure, the weight is not evenly distributed between Jamie and Cathy, with Jamie having more priority – perhaps a reflection of the musical's creator Jason Robert Brown's own self-important egocentrism. The Last Five Years wa wants to be this intimate examination of a tempestuous relationship. The film version, however, only manages to superficially gloss over at best without thorough knowledge of the origin source, never pausing long enough to succeed.
As a musical, The Last Five Years is exactly what you would want – well written lyricisms and songs that have emotion and purpose in progressing the story. As a film though, the constant use of songs as snap shot vignettes of the relationships prevents the audience from connecting with the couple's relationship. Had a song or two been removed and a bit more dialogue was substituted then the adaptation would be more successful as a movie. It is right around "The Schmuel Song" at minute thirty-five that this need for editing is apparent.
The Last Five Years is bound to be a hit with the theater crowd and will forever live on their singing little hearts. However, The Last Five Years fails to have a broader reach to intrigue a greater audience.
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