Blu-ray Review: The Last Five Years

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Writer-director Richard LaGravenese (Oscar-nominated for his The Fisher King screenplay) adapted Jason Robert Brown’s Off-Broadway play The Last Five Years, which received a very limited theatrical release earlier this year. It stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan and is now on Blu-ray and DVD. The story of an overnight-success novelist, Jamie Wellerstein (Jordan), and a struggling actress, Cathy Hiatt (Kendrick), The Last Five Years is a quirky, tuneful musical romance. There’s not much to it, but Jason Robert Brown’s original songs manage to imbue Jamie and Cathy’s tale with a sobering realism that even non-musical buffs might appreciate.

The story opens with a heartbroken Cathy looking back on what appears to be a failed relationship. We jump back to five years earlier, when she and Jamie had first met. The Jewish Jamie is dating outside of his heritage for the first time (which we hear about in “Shiksa Goddess”). Both Kendrick and Jordan anchor the film with strong performances. Kendrick, in particular, shines as she clearly outlines the downward progression Cathy follows as she watches Jamie go from being an unknown wannabe author to a celebrated novelist. Cathy is swept up in the wake of Jamie’s success, slowly realizing she’s being left behind.

L5Y_4 (380x210).jpgThere’s a lot of singing in The Last Five Years, in fact most of the story is told via lyrics. And there are no really noteworthy supporting characters; Kendrick and Jordan carry the vast majority of the picture. While there aren’t any specific songs that really stand out as showpieces, the song score as a whole does a great job of incorporating a wide range of emotions. Kendrick and Jordan have quite a bit of emoting to do via the songs, something they appear to do effortlessly. Colloquialisms and profanity are built right into the lyrics, lending them a believable, down-to-Earth feel.

L5Y_7 (380x253).jpgSufficiently sturdy audio/visual specs make Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray easy to enjoy. The cinematography (by Steven Meizler) looks reasonably sharp. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1, with the most prominent element being the near-constant music. Other than the appropriately upfront and centered vocals, there’s just a variety of atmospheric audio elements to fill out the surround spectrum.

Pretty slim supplements accompany The Last Five Years. Aside from “Sing-Along Subtitles,” all we get is a four-minute “Conversation with Composer/Lyricist Jason Robert Brown.”

The Last Five Years is easy to recommend to fans of Anna Kendrick or Broadway star Jeremy Jordan (best known in the movie world for his role in 2012’s Joyful Noise). Visit the official website for more info.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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