A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Last Five Years is based on an off-Broadway musical from 2002 in which a man and a woman take turns chronicling the demise of their relationship, with the twist being that Cathy (Anna Kendrick) tells her story from end to beginning, while Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) tells his side from beginning to end. Although the film is being marketed as a romance, it's obvious from the very beginning (Cathy's first song is about grieving the end of her marriage) that things don't work out for the couple. The language is occasionally strong, including "f--k" and "s--t," and there are a few scantily clad love scenes, some of which include adultery. Lyrics include a few suggestive phrases, and there's also some drinking and a quick shot of a woman using a bong.
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What's the story?
At the beginning of THE LAST FIVE YEARS, a grief-stricken Cathy (Anna Kendrick) sings about the demise of her marriage to Jamie (Jeremy Jordan). In the next song, the story rewinds to Jamie falling into bed with Cathy for the first time. As in the original off-Broadway musical's stage performances, the movie alternates between the two main characters singing about their relationship, except that her story moves backward and his forward. Cathy is a struggling actress hoping to avoid yet another summer working in regional Ohio theater, while Jamie is a successful debut novelist whose book is toast of New York City publishing. As his star rises and her insecurities get the best of her, their sweet early romance turns into a challenging, resentful marriage.
Is it any good?
This is a heartbreakingly honest musical, with two charming actors in the lead roles. Fans of Jason Robert Brown's semi-autobiographical two-person musical (which in effect is two one-person shows with one duet in the middle and one at the end) will appreciate seeing it translated to the big screen. But those without any background knowledge of the musical may not immediately understand the overriding concept (that their stories are told on two different timelines) or why there's quite so much singing compared to dialogue.
Whether you like musicals or not, there are a few numbers that work remarkably well visually: "ShiksaGoddess" and "A Summer in Ohio" are both funny; Jamie goes through a list of his ex-girlfriends (whom the audience can see lined up) in the former, and in the latter, Cathy reveals the hilarity and embarrassment of working in an Ohio theater troupe with an eccentric cast of characters. Jordan and Kendrick excel at the humor, so those songs, in addition to Jamie's story-within-a-story "The Schmuel Song," are both visually appealing and fun to see performed. The sweet engagement duet "The Next Ten Minutes" is also done with loving attention using Manhattan as a backdrop. Director Richard LaGravenese clearly adores the musical, but despite the enthusiastic performances he coaches from his stars, there's not enough "between" the songs to make The Last Five Years appeal to those unfamiliar with the unique musical romance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of movie musicals. Although many musicals are family friendly, is The Last Five Years appropriate for younger audiences? Why, or why not?
Do you prefer musicals like this one, with more singing than dialogue, or do you prefer more story with your musicals? Do you think this would appeal to audiences who aren't already familiar with the musical?
Do you think the story favors one person over the other? What are its messages about romantic relationships?
- In theaters: February 13, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: May 5, 2015
- Cast: Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan, Meg Hudson
- Director: Richard LaGravenese
- Studio: Radius TWC
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Music and sing-along
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual material, brief strong language and a drug image
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