It’s one of those days where I wish I had iTunes. The Last Five Years is sadly not showing in my area and while the movie is available online, it’s only available on iTunes. Yes, I am Team Android but sometimes, that has its drawbacks. Don’t worry, readers, I’m planning to review the movie as soon as it comes out on DVD. Dear Leah Libresco, please review the movie for me!
Anyway, I never saw the original play when it was off-Broadway or any stage production. Instead, I got introduced to the play through my friends in theater back in high school. One of my classmates performed “Climbing Uphill” for a “Best of Broadway” show and it became the song I sang in my head before every job interview. I listened to the soundtrack of both the original off-Broadway production and the 2013 revival.
So what exactly is The Last Five Years about, you ask?
It’s a love story, but not the kind you’d usually expect from a musical. It’s about a writer named Jamie and an actress named Cathy who both look back on their marriage as it falls apart. Cathy starts at the end of the marriage and flashes backwards to the beginning of the relationship while Jamie starts at the beginning of the relationship. In the musical, the two of them are kept apart from each other until the middle of the play, when they sing about their marriage, and then are kept apart again until the very end of the play. I know. Wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey. It’s a play. Just go with it.
If you don’t have iTunes and if the movie is not showing in your area, I highly recommend getting the soundtrack because it pretty much tells you the whole story of Cathy and Jamie and how they fell apart.
With that, on to the review!
1) “Still Hurting.” The soundtrack starts out with the biggest spoiler of the show: Cathy and Jamie’s marriage has fallen apart. Cathy is sitting there, assessing the damage, picking up the pieces, wondering what went wrong. Anna Kendrick sings out her lament. It’s not so much a breakup anthem as it is a post-breakup cry-your-heart-out kind of song.
2) “Shiksa Goddess.” This track goes all the way back to when Jamie first meets Cathy and takes her out on a date. Jamie is established as having an awkward sense of humor. He’s also Jewish and is sick of dating every girl he probably grew up with. But when it comes to falling in love, everything is all of a sudden new again and every other girl seems the same and “maybe this time it’ll be different.” I think we’ve all been there before. Jeremy Jordan is hilarious in this particular performance.
3) “See I’m Smiling” This track starts out with an interlude not heard on the soundtracks of the original stage productions, but the familiar intro comes around. The song plays out with Cathy sounding like she’s putting on a facade. She’s trying to work things out with Jamie even though she’s living in Ohio as part of her acting career and Jamie’s still living in New York. The facade starts crumbling slowly and then all at once at the bridge. Anna Kendrick really sings out the anger and the sadness, sounding like she’s physically pushing Jamie away.
4) “Moving Too Fast.” I never usually want to this song, but the beat and the piano are way to compelling to not dance along to, at least a little. But this song also gives a lot of insight into Jamie’s thought process. He is always living in the moment, never thinking ahead. I think the most telling line of the song is “Some people can’t find success in their art. Some people never feel love in their heart. Some people can’t tell the two things apart, but I keep rolling on.” Think of that what you will.
5) “I’m a Part of That.” We find Cathy and Jamie in a typical day. But as I said before, there’s an element of a facade here. Cathy has this insecurity that she’ll never catch up or be as good as Jamie in her career. She’s putting a lot of her self-worth, if not all of it into her marriage and uses Jamie as a measurement of that self-worth. I cannot begin to emphasize how wrong this perception is, but most people in relationships have probably have that perception before.
6) “The Schmuel Song.” What the movie leaves out is that Jamie is telling Cathy a story for Christmas. It’s Jamie and Cathy’s first Christmas together. Jeremy Jordan’s different voices are hilarious and you easily get caught up in Jamie’s strange and wonderful story. You get a glimpse of Jamie’s talent as a writer here. It’s a very heartwarming song and you can tell that at some point, Jamie’s love for Cathy was genuine. It makes the fallout all the more heartbreaking.
7) “A Summer In Ohio.” I can picture Anna Kendrick playing this song on a ukulele. This song has Cathy performing summer stock in Ohio and having a hell of a time. And by that, I mean that Ohio has become a personal circle of Hell. It’s a hilarious song, but why didn’t Anna Kendrick fake a British accent in the like “I could be in line to be the British Queen” like her predecessors?! Little known fact, btw. Originally there was a line that went “I saw your book at a Borders in Kentucky.” Since Borders has shut down, the store in question has changed to Target, which usually stocks bestselling books.
9) “A Miracle Would Happen.” It’s almost a cliche that all the good men are taken. Jamie is facing the effects of being a best selling novelist, which includes hordes of fangirls seemingly throwing himself at his feet. Meanwhile, Cathy has an audition that goes really well. And Jamie struggles with the temptation of his wandering eye, but the song implies that he is very close to giving in.
10) “Climbing Uphill.” This song introduced me to the musical and has a bit of a different arrangement from the original stage productions. Also, Cathy addressed this song to Jaime instead of her father. One other change is that originally there was a line that went “These are the people who cast Linda Blair in a musical.” The line is changed to “Russell Crowe.” As someone who loved both Gladiator and Les Miserables, I will say that Russell Crowe is a wonderful actor, but a horrible singer. But I digress. Cathy’s inner monologue is heard instead of her audition song and we learn that unlike Jamie, Cathy does not live in the moment. She is always thinking ahead and oftentimes, that proves to be detrimental. She also has major self-confidence issues. I wish Anna Kendrick could’ve played up more of the comedy in this song, but it’s overall a good performance.
11) “If I Didn’t Believe in You.” Jamie is the one wearing the facade in this song. You catch Jamie and Cathy in another argument. Jeremy Jordan sings out the anger in this song, but there’s a problem with the song itself. It’s the fact that in spite of Jamie wanting to encourage Cathy in this song, it’s also clear that he’s starting to lose faith in her. If you notice, the leitmotifs from “Still Hurting” show up here as well. This is when the marriage falls apart, in my honest opinion. Or at least when it starts falling apart.
12) “I Could Do Better Than That.” This is the song I’ve listened to the most. A scene with this song was shown as a teaser before the trailer came out. It shows Cathy and Jamie out on the road, heading to wherever Cathy came from. Cathy talks to Jamie about what she wanted out of life. A line from the original stage production that got changed is “Met a guy I was taking who you might say looked like Tom Cruise.” Since Tom Cruise kind of lost his sanity and sex appeal after jumping on Oprah’s couch, the line has been changed to “with some very well-placed tattoos.” It captures how you feel when you’re in the middle of a relationship; that desire to give all of yourself to your significant other. If you notice, Cathy says the same lines of “You and nothing but you, miles and piles of you” that she said in “See I’m Smiling” but the words have an entirely different context.
13) “Nobody Needs to Know.” Prepare for some mood whiplash here, dear readers. This is when Jamie and Cathy’s marriage officially falls apart with Jamie committing adultery. If I was going to be honest, Jeremy Jordan sounds more like he’s using this affair as his way out. He has to convince himself that he’s really in love with his mistress and it comes off feeling like a facade. His marriage with Cathy seems unsalvagable, yes, but it sounds more like he’s searching for solace with someone, anyone, than finding new love with someone.
14) “Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You.” Can you fall in love with piano intros? Because I am honestly, legitimately in love with how this song starts. Piano players, please tell me what key this song starts with because this is one song I wish I could play myself. This finds Cathy after her first date with all of the euphoria one might expect. This joy, this happiness is all the more heartbreaking when the song turns to Jamie writing a “Dear John” letter to Cathy. That’s right. He’s blowing her off with a heartfelt letter. The two goodbyes are intertwined along with the leitmotif from the intro. And yes, this leitmotif was used in “The Next Ten Minutes.”
Overall, this soundtrack is a wonderful piece of work. I have definitely fallen in love with it just as much as I loved the original stage productions. It’s available on Amazon and iTunes. Give it a listen.