It’s hard to make a relationship work when both parties are traveling in opposite directions. That’s the case for Jamie Wellerstein (Jeremy Jordan) and his wife Cathy Hiatt (Anna Kendrick), whose tragically failed marriage is the subject of Jason Robert Brown’s autobiographical 2002 off-Broadway musical and Richard LaGravenese’s subsequent adapted film.
“The Last Five Years” starts at its ending: a dark, mostly empty New York City apartment where Cathy is reflecting on her failed marriage and her plateauing acting career. As Cathy is moving backwards in life, Jamie is moving forward. At age 23, Jamie’s debut novel, “Light Out of Darkness,” is picked up by Random House and becomes an instant bestseller.
Told through alternating point-of-views which are mostly sung, Cathy’s story is told in reverse while Jamie’s starts at its beginning. Their story meets at the middle with their marriage in Central Park (“The Next Ten Minutes”).
Perhaps intentionally, that number — like the marriage’s foundation — is particularly shaky. The camera (held by cinematographer Steven Meizler) uncomfortably wobbles as the couple circle through Central Park.
But the symbolism doesn’t affect the actors’ voices. Jordan and Kendrick are pitch perfect, playing charismatic leads. “The Schmuel Song,” a silly little ballad that will appeal to any writer’s heart, is absurdly cute and it makes us fall in love with Jordan. Meanwhile Kendrick’s stream-of-concious asides in “Climbing Uphill/Audition Sequence” are refreshingly sincere.
But those aren’t “The Last Five Years'” only high notes. The ending duet, when it inevitably comes, is surprisingly poignant.
“The Last Five Years” was written and directed by Richard LaGraveness based on Jason Robert Brown’s musical.