The Last Five Years
OK, musicals arenâ€t for everyone.
But I daresay that Presbyterians have more
interest in music than most.
For one thing, all our worship services encourage
everyone to sing hymns. (And we just published a new denominational hymnal.)
There are plenty of people in our surrounding culture who havenâ€t sung
anything for years, much less every week.
And for those of us who have sung in church
choirs all our lives, well, the music of the anthems runs through our heads
constantly, which isnâ€t a bad thing at all.
Itâ€s like a part of our spirits is always at
song, like a soundtrack in the background of our consciousness.
Yes, weâ€re the type of people who have more
inherent interest in musicals than most moviegoers.
That said, thereâ€s a lot to appreciate about
â€The Last Five Years,â€ť especially for the music lovers.
The singing is practically nonstop.
Thereâ€s only a little dialogue in between.
Itâ€s the complete history of a five-year
relationship, from meeting each other to breakup, with the charming wedding in
the middle. The
uniqueness here is that itâ€s told from two perspectives, one going forward
in the five years, the other going backwards.
So we begin with Cathy (Anna Kendrick) being
enormously sad, and crying even while sheâ€s singing â€Iâ€m Hurting,â€ť
because sheâ€s just read the breakup note from Jamie (Jeremy Jordan).
But we donâ€t stay on that morose theme for
following is Jamie just being ecstatic about meeting this wonderful girl named
so, for the rest of the movie, we get the two points of view at crosscurrents:
Cathy from the end toward the beginning, and
Jamie from the beginning to the end.
â€The Last Five Yearsâ€ť began life as an
off-Broadway musical, written by the Tony-award-winning Jason Robert Brown.
The orchestration, heavy on the violas and light
on the percussion, is just beautiful, and never interferes with the singers.
Both Ms. Kendrick and Mr. Jordan have lovely,
clear, voices, and are fine actors, as well.
This is always a delicate balance when casting a
musical, because oftentimes the best actors canâ€t sing a lick, and vice
thereâ€s not only sufficient talent from both main actors, thereâ€s also a
nice chemistry between them.
Theyâ€re believable in all the stages, from
quick, exultant infatuation to slow, painful estrangement.
Of course it doesnâ€t help that his career, as
a writer, took off like a rocket, and her career, as an actress, just ran out
of steam in a summer theater camp somewhere in
difficult to overcome that kind of career tension in any relationship, much
less when both careers depend rather exclusively on popular success, and one
is simply more successful than the other.
But of course there are other tensions, as well:
she has a tendency to immerse herself in
paralyzing self-doubt, which he can deliver her from with soaring
encouragement, but of course imparting that level of energy is a lot of work.
For his part, his great success, natural charm,
and native good looks have combined to make him the target of many wanton
women who are quite willing to throw themselves at him, ring or not.
Itâ€s hard for insecure Cathy to just disappear
in his big shadow, but then, her insistence on pursuing her own course means
that sheâ€s not around to protect her home turf, either.
Yes, we bounce around with many mood swings,
which mostly holds the viewerâ€s interest despite watching what is basically
a two-person musical play.
No, musicals arenâ€t for everyone, and this
particular one is more quirky than most.
But its uniqueness lends it a certain charm that
will enchant those of us who love all sorts of music, but especially the
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,