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Anna Kendrick shines in “The Last Five Years” movie February 13, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Movies, musical theater, Musicals.
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Anna Kendrick shines in the role of Cathy in the movie adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s musical “The Last Five Years” – a musical theatre staple about a couple who meet, date, marry, and ultimately divorce — although its told from Cathy’s point of view running backwards, while from Jamie’s point of view it runs chronologically. Jeremy Jordan is no slouch either in the role of Jamie, although this is Kendrick’s movie from beginning to end.

The score here is virtually intact (with minor changes that nobody but folks who have actually performed the piece will recognize) and it sounds terrific.

What it doesn’t do is look terrific — and since film is a visual medium first and foremost, that’s a bit of a problem. Basically using “found light” in most of its scenes, some of them are dark and murky, and I literally had to squint to make out what was going on — this is particularly detrimental in Jordan’s “Nobody Needs to Know” where all facial expression is washed out by murky lighting and detracts from the song as a whole, but surprisingly it happens even in outdoor scenes. The movie’s low-budget roots are apparent throughout.

Still, some of the movie works brilliantly — while in the musical, the characters interact only for the marriage sequence in the middle, here they are present and interact in each other’s songs throughout. That allows for more relevant screen interactions, and gives the actors someone to play off of. On the other hand, what works so well in the stage version is the fact that the actors DONT interact – and that it is up to the imagination of the audience to picture what is going on — and that makes the stage version cleaner and easier to follow.

I’m going to be perfectly honest, I know this piece backwards and forwards and inside out and even I had difficulty figuring out some scenes’ time placement — are they sitting in the car NOW or THEN? Is she auditioning NOW or THEN? Is he doing this NOW or THEN? because the presence of the other person throws off the timeframe.

But here’s the thing — every second that Anna Kendrick is onscreen, she absolutely glows — be that singing, making out with Jeremy, or reacting to what’s going on — and she is a wonder to watch perform. I want to see her play the lead in every movie musical that comes out now and forever….okay, that is an over-exaggeration, but she is simply terrific.

I do not expect anybody but musical theater lovers will a) see this movie, or b) enjoy this movie — but I did, and its highly recommended — but that being said, there is absolutely nothing like seeing this piece live on stage, where it becomes a completely different living breathing animal — but this is pretty close.

The one thing I did not get out of this film version was any sense of emotion — Jeremy sings and his songs soar and become pop tunes of their own right — straight out of a music video. Anna sings of sadness and despair, yet you don’t feel it along with her, you’re a bit in awe of her in general, and wondering how she could afford that loft apartment in New York.

Note: if you are waiting for this to hit a movie theatre, dont….it opened in 5 total theaters nationwide today, is opening in 20 more next friday, and a few more the week after that…so chances are great that it will NOT be showing in a theater anywhere near you. You can watch it On Demand on your cable provider, or download from YouTube, GooglePlay and other sites.

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