By Jac Frost
The Last Five Years, in my opinion, is one of Hollywood’s first successes at portraying a divorce in a movie. I have never seen a realistic movie divorce, or a realistic breakup for that matter. Hollywood has a tendency to try to make things as shiny as a Twilight vampire or a Steven Spielberg special effect.
I mean, if you look at any of my favorite Nora Ephron rom-coms (Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail) the breakups that Meg Ryan—Queen of the Romantic Comedies—goes through, they’re all so…kind. They just want the other to be happy.
I don’t know about you, but even if I’m not in love with the guy I’m dating, I wouldn’t want him to fall in love with anyone else when we’re supposed to be together. Even if I’m falling in love with Tom Hanks, Greg Kinnear still doesn’t get to fall for some chick that has a small time TV show!
Anyways, this horrible lead-in is supposed to be saying that there has legitimately been nothing in Hollywood that shows what divorce really is until this year. If I’m wrong, please tell me. But I’m pretty sure I’m not wrong. Divorce is just not a topic that people really like to discuss, and when the “D” word is mentioned in movies it’s either a mushy-gushy concept where only one person is in the wrong, or it’s some sort of Fatal Attraction type tale where one person in the relationship is still more to blame than their ex-significant other.
In the year 2015, though, Hollywood divorce has finally been realistically brought to life on film. Director Richard LaGravenese took Broadway genius Jason Robert Brown’s fantastic musical The Last Five Years and brought it to the silver screen. The film stars Oscar nominee, Anna Kendrick and Tony-Award nominee Jeremy Jordan (best recognized for his role as Jimmy Collins in the show SMASH). I am not missing the irony that I am saying that the most realistic film divorce story we have to date is in the form of a musical where everyone is singing, but it’s true.
The movie follows Cathy (Kendrick) and Jamie (Jordan) throughout their five years of marriage. Here’s the twist: the movie starts at the end of the marriage for Cathy, and the beginning of the marriage for Jamie. Thus right after Cathy sings about how “Jamie is over and Jamie is gone,” we immediately see Jamie singing about how he’s found the girl whom he has been waiting for through all his other relationships. The movie continues like this and the two only meet in the same time period for one song: The Next Ten Minutes where they get engaged and married within eight minutes of singing.
Jason Robert Brown loosely based The Last Five Years on his first marriage and I think that that is what pushes this story to be so realistic. Both Jordan and Kendrick also come from families of divorce and I think this shows in their acting at some of the more difficult scenes. While in stage productions of the musical people often take sides in the divorce, the film really helps to show how the divorce is not completely one sided. Both Cathy and Jamie are at fault for the relationship ending, and when you watch the movie you can even see where the relationship ended for each person.
Divorce is a touchy subject for all involved and while a musical may not seem like the best way for people to understand how there are two sides to the end of every relationship, the writer, director, and actors come together to tell a story that is, in its own way, timeless.