Friday, February 27, 2015

"The Last Five Years": Chamber off-Broadway musical about an artistic couple's failed marriage translates rather literally to the screen

The Last Five Years”, directed by Robert LaGravanese, is a film version of the Off-Broadway musical by Jason Robert Brown.
The music tells the story of a failed marriage between Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), a novelist, and Cathy (Anna Kendrick), a struggling actress.  The story is told in flashback in alternating solo songs by the parting husband and wife. Cathy’s story is in reverse chronological order, but Jamie’s is forward.
The film and musical are based on real life, the composer’s failed marriage to Theresa O’Neill, which resulted in her threat of legal action, and Brown’s changing one of the songs to “Shiksa Goddess”, where Jamie dates outside his faith.
Most of the action takes place in New York, but in the middle, Cathy spends some summer time in Ohio. There’s one scene where she looks like Julie Andrews as “The Sound of Music” opens. Other scenes have the characters singing in quite intimate poses.
There is also some material about how Jamie works with literary agents, something I remember well with my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book in the 1990s. 
The tendency for artists to write about their own experiences, or even compose music based on it, has always seemed controversial.  “Write what you know” migrates to “write what other people want.” It's interesting that the film shows a typed double-spaced manuscript, and that the writer isn't submitting his material online. He doesn't want to get stuck as a midlist author. 
The film shows in the Avalon and Angelika Popup in Washington DC, both inconvenient to reach from Metro or to park at.  But it is also available on Amazon video-in-demand and iTunes.

The official site is here  (Radius TWC).  The original title did not spell out the number, “The Last 5 Years”.  

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