Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What's on Netflix?: THE LAST FIVE YEARS

Welcome to another installment of WHAT'S ON NETFLIX?, where we pick out a film or series currently playing on Netflix and review it for the fans.  This week's selection is the musical THE LAST FIVE YEARS!

I love musicals. The power showtunes have to create a fever of emotion and energy within basic premises and stories always blows my mind. For years, I put off watching The Last Five Years due to reviews that dubbed it fairly forgettable. Recently, I sat down, at the recommendation of a friend, and experienced this beautiful movie for the first time. I realize that I am in the minority in my love for The Last Five Years, but I am happy to recommend it as, in my opinion, one of the best, most criminally underrated musicals of the 21st Century.

In The Last Five Years (hereinafter TLFY), the difficulties and hardships of marriage are laid out for you onscreen. As I was watching TLFY, I was reminded of critically-acclaimed bittersweet love stories from recent years like (500) Days of Summer and last year’s La La Land. This musical follows the love story of Cathy and Jamie, two artists who fall in love, despite their differences in personality and dreams. The longer they are together, the more their differences begin to drive them apart and the more that their perfect love story becomes a disaster.

The primary strength of TLFY shines through in Jason Robert Brown’s incredible musical ability. Brown, the musical genius behind Broadway hits like Parade and The Bridges of Madison County, has a perfect ear for incorporating songs within scenes in a natural, believable fashion. Once the initial abrupt moment of suspension of disbelief occurs as everyone begins to sing, everything flows so seamlessly and beautifully that the normal disconnect that occurs while watching a musical never really hits you. Instead, you enter into a world where emotions run so hot and passions so intense that music is the only way to fully express how you feel. Songs from TLFY are infectious, heart-wrenching, and unforgettable.

Not only does TLFY succeed as a musical, it is also an excellently-crafted film. The cinematography in this short movie is genuinely inspired. The storytelling in TLFY is unconventional, involving a series of dramatic jumps from year to year that is accentuated by tonal shifts and stylistic differences that pull the viewer in without overtly stating too much. Furthermore, the chemistry between Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan succeeds on so many important levels. Jordan plays a deeply-sympathetic romantic lead, despite being a deeply-problematic person. Kendrick portrays heartbreak and passionate love in such a believable, compelling way, driven forward even more intensely by her vocal talent, reminding audiences again and again that she is just as at home on the silver screen as she is in a Broadway performance.

Weaknesses are truly difficult to pin down in this movie. In reading other reviews and critical responses to TLFY, I have found that most people take issue with Jeremy Jordan’s character of Jamie not finding him a supportable lead. I, personally, had no issue following Jamie’s rise and fall. Despite always feeling for Cathy’s character and hating the ways in which their deteriorating relationship hurt her, Jamie’s weaknesses are so human in nature that I could never truly hate him. Personally, the only weakness I found in TLFY fell upon its rushed style. As a ninety-minute movie, there was plenty of room for expansion and slower pacing, but instead, the plot of this film plays out a bit too quickly at times. In the end, if you can immerse yourself into the characters onscreen in this 2014 musical, then this movie could very well become one of your favorites within the genre.

Love stories are easily cliché. Bittersweet love stories have been done so many times in so many different ways that it is always a rewarding experience to find a new take on tried and true techniques. The Last Five Years is a story we all know: Boy meets girl; Boy and girl fall in love; Boy and girl fall out of love. However, the musical genius and the cinematic creativity that flow through its runtime take a simple story and elevate to greatness.

Jonathan’s Score: 9/10

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