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The Last Five Years Blu-ray Review

The Last Five Years (2015) movie poster The Last Five Years

Theatrical Release: February 13, 2015 / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Richard LaGravenese / Writers: Richard LaGravenese (screenplay), Jason Robert Brown (music and lyrics)

Cast: Anna Kendrick (Cathy Hiatt), Jeremy Jordan (Jamie Wellerstein), Natalie Knepp (Alise Michaels), Marceline Hugot (Mrs. Linda Whitfield)

Songs: "Still Hurting", "Shiksa Goddess", "See I'm Smiling", "Moving Too Fast", "A Part of That", "The Schmuel Song", "A Summer in Ohio", "The Next Ten Minutes", "A Miracle Would Happen", "When You Come Home to Me", "Climbing Uphill", "If I Didn't Believe in You", "I Can Do Better Than That", "Nobody Needs to Know", "Goodbye Until Tomorrow", "I Could Never Rescue You"

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Is there anything that film has yet to say about love and romance? Maybe, maybe not. The Last Five Years doesn't say anything on the subject; it sings it!

Adapted from the somewhat obscure musical by Jason Robert Brown which premiered on a Chicago suburb's stages in 2001, went Off-Broadway in 2002, and has moved around Europe ever since,
Last Five Years tells the story of Jamie and Cathy Wellerstein, a married couple in their twenties. The film jumps around the titular time period, showing us the highs and lows in this rocky relationship.

While Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), a Columbia University dropout, flourishes in the literary world as a novelist, Cathy (Anna Kendrick) struggles to make it as an actress. As you can imagine, the wide gap between their career paths and success takes a toll on the two. So too do the travel commitments and temptations of Jamie's calling. While he's in New York for book readings and signings, Jamie is stuck in Ohio doing summer stock theatre.

The Last Five Years is basically a two-person show. It's also a hardcore musical; few lines are spoken. That design may be off-putting to some, but inviting to those whose loves of musical theatre and film too rarely intertwine.

The film version of the stage musical "The Last Five Years" stars Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick as a New York couple.

The show is adapted by Richard LaGravenese, who also directs. A longtime screenwriter (The Fisher King, The Bridges of Madison County, The Horse Whisperer), LaGravenese has been directing somewhat steadily for the past several years to modest returns. After Beautiful Creatures, his 2013 adaptation of a YA fantasy novel series, crashed at the box office instead of becoming the new Twilight, LaGravenese turned his attentions to this, clearly a passion project.

In the hands of The Weinstein Company's niche Radius-TWC banner, The Last Five Years was treated like a niche film. The company released the movie on Valentine's Day weekend, a savvy choice for the genre, but only in three theaters. It was concurrently made available on Video On Demand services, where it probably did most of its business, because its theater count was capped at 36 and it closed after three weeks having grossed just $145 thousand.

There aren't many small to mid-size movie musicals to look to as a model. These days, musicals are typically intended to be a major mainstream attraction either in the summer or at Christmastime. Some of them succeed (Les Misιrables, Mamma Mia!), while others underperform (Rent, The Producers, Rock of Ages).

Weinstein clearly never had any intention of having The Last Five Years compared to such tentpoles. The film could more readily be judged against original musicals that didn't reach the screen having won over Broadway patrons: movies like Once and Across the Universe. Last Five Years never even had a chance to catch on to the degree that those did, coming and going without getting anywhere near a triple-digit theater count. You can question Weinstein's distribution plans a lot of times, but here the cautious approach may have been justified, considering how few people were aware of Last Five Years before this, even if many of those who were responded positively and passionately to the play.

Cathy (Anna Kendrick) struggles to make it as a stage actress. At Christmastime, Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) tries to lift Cathy's spirits with "The Schmuel Song."

Though its affections and arguments are presented in song, Last Five Years still reminds you of other films that have studied relationships for extended periods of time, films like Two for the Road, (500) Days of Summer,
and The Five-Year Engagement. Its conflicts are somewhat familiar and neither of its leads is given enough to fully endear us to them. Nonetheless, the songs are agreeable and well-performed. The second tune, "Shiksa Goddess", feels more like an Avenue Q number and Christmas-set "The Schmuel Song" is a complete random detour, though one some will enjoy.

Jordan comes to the film from Broadway, where he made his greatest mark as Jack Kelly, the lead newsboy in Newsies, a role for which he received a Tony nomination. Though Kendrick did get a Tony nomination at age 13 for a Broadway revival of High Society, she is much better-known for her film work from the Twilight Saga to her Oscar-nominated turn in Up in the Air. Between Pitch Perfect and Into the Woods, she has repeatedly put her musical talent to use on film and she is comfortable with the singing challenges here, even if her presumed star power apparently did nothing to win this an audience.

Three months after its blink-and-miss theatrical engagement, The Last Five Years reached Blu-ray and DVD this week from Weinstein and their home video partner Anchor Bay Entertainment.

The Last Five Years Blu-ray Disc cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($22.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Last Five Years does an admirable job of expanding the stage show for a visually stimulating feature film. The 2.40:1 picture makes nice use of New York City and makes a point to take us to different locations outside of the couple's apartment. The Blu-ray's picture quality could be a little better. It's a little hazier and less sharp than you'd like. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is free of any problems, doing a fine job of distributing music fully and evenly throughout.

Jason Robert Brown, author of the stage musical, discusses its film adaptation in a short interview. The opening and closing shot of the film appears under the title logo at the end of The Last Five Years' Blu-ray menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Those who love the stage musical and have been looking forward to this film adaptation may be disappointed by how little bonus material joins it here.

First up are "Sing-Along Subtitles", which are even less exciting than you might assume. Think you'll get colorful graphic lyrics with a bouncing ball over them? Think again. Instead, you get plain white italicized subtitles,
identical to the standard ones you can activate on the film. They don't include the SDH (subtitled for deaf and hard of hearing) bits of that, but they're still so basic as to barely deserve mentioning. (They also can't even be turned off should you reconsider.)

The only other extra is the slightly more exciting "A Conversation with Composer/Lyricist Jason Robert Brown" (3:57, HD), a super short chat in which creator Brown discusses the design of the show and his appreciation for the personnel hired to make a movie out of it. It's not surprising he doesn't discuss the failed marriage that inspired the show, since it prompted a lawsuit and script changes from Brown's ex-wife.

The disc opens with a menu-inaccessible HD trailer for The One I Love. Typical for a Weinstein film, The Last Five Years' own trailer is unfortunately not included.

The menu offers a standard montage. Also par for a Weinstein Blu-ray, this disc regrettably does not resume unfinished playback or allow you to set bookmarks.

"The Last Five Years" captures the sunny highs and icy lows in a couple's relationship.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

An abundance of original music
is enough to distinguish The Last Five Years from other romance films. While I can't speak to how effective this is as an adaptation of the stage show, I can say it is reasonably cinematic and overall moderately enjoyable. It's the kind of thing that might rub you the wrong way if it was wildly popular, but remains kind of charming as an under-the-radar, word-of-mouth movie.

It is disappointing that the film reaches Blu-ray with only a 4-minute interview when its origins and small but passionate following would seem to warrant more than that.

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Related Reviews:
Anna Kendrick: Into the Woods • Happy Christmas • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Adapted by Richard LaGravenese: Beautiful Creatures • Behind the Candelabra
Adapted from Stage: Jersey Boys • Rock of Ages • Nine • Chicago • Annie (1982)
Musicals: Across the Universe • Begin Again • Newsies • Burlesque • Frozen (2013)
Romance: Love Story • The One I Love | New to Blu-ray: Annie (2014) • The Immigrant • Lost River

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Reviewed May 8, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Radius-TWC, Sh-K-Boom Entertainment, Lucky Monkey Pictures, The Exchange
and The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.