I got around to watching The Last Five Years. I like Anna Kendrick and musicals and I figured it’d be a good flick.
To be honest, I walked away from the movie with mixed feelings. At first I hated Jamie. Then I hated Kathy. Then I hated both of them. Then I liked both of them. I went on Youtube to listen to the soundtrack (which is basically watching the movie over again because there’s hardly any dialogue) and I began to unravel what the story was trying to do.
Naturally, the soundtrack got stuck in my head along the way.
My favourite song has to be “The Schmuel Song” because (1) it’s fun to listen to and probably sing (2) the parable has direct parallels with the overarching story, and (3) it’s from one of the happier moments of the play.
As I listened to the soundtrack, I kept trying to understand why the musical is structured the way it is: Kathy’s story going backwards, Jamie’s going forwards, the two alternating songs.
And my current theory is that the protagonist here is really Jamie. The real tip off is the last song, “Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You,” in which Jamie leaves their apartment and Kathy is at the beginning of their relationship.
In the scene, the two sing separately until the very end, where they seem to be singing to each other directly. It almost looks as if Jamie is singing to his memory of Kathy, of how he’s been trying to work up the courage to leave her because it just isn’t working, even with how well things started out. Jeremy Jordan (the actor) has this face as he says goodbye as if he doesn’t know if he really wants to leave because he’s still in love with the Kathy he met a five years ago.
And from there the theory kind of extended. The back and forth between him thinking how awesome it started (Shiksa Goddess) to them falling apart (See I’m Smiling). How things were “Moving Too Fast”, and maybe he neglected her (I’m A Part of That). But no, he was supportive, wasn’t he? Enter The Schmuel Song, the epitome of his support for her. And it worked. She got an acting job (A Summer in Ohio). And they got married (The Next Ten Minutes), but it wasn’t good enough and she’s clingy (A Miracle Would Happen/When You Come Home To Me). In fact, her career probably isn’t going anywhere, based on how she started (Climbing Uphill), and he can’t keep up this facade of being supportive much longer (If I Didn’t Believe in You). So why did he love her anyways? Because she was a big dreamer (I Can Do Better Than That), but it still wasn’t enough, because he’s been having affairs (Nobody Needs to Know).
So then he leaves, and we’re left with the finale. Which in turn circles back to the beginning, “I’m Still Hurting”, which is possibly how Jamie can picture Kathy sulking over the divorce.
I’ve got a Kathy theory as well, since the movie ends with her walking into the apartment to find Jamie’s letter. It’s also retrospective, where after sulking over him leaving, she tries to piece together what went wrong. She realizes that he picked her because she wasn’t Jewish (Shiksa Goddess), and so she wonders why that wasn’t enough (See I’m Smiling). But then again, once the relationship started things were “Moving Too Fast” and she has to convince herself that she’s still important to him (I’m A Part of That). And it wasn’t just about him…he supported her (The Schmuel Song) and she had a job (Summer in Ohio), and they got married all the same (The Next Ten Minutes). But even when they were married he wasn’t wholly hers (A Miracle Would Happen/When You Come Home To Me). It’s probably because she can’t be successful like him (Climbing Uphill), and he even said she can’t make it (If I Didn’t Believe in You). But she still has big dreams (I Can Do Better Than That), and she loved him, but he still cheated on her (Nobody Needs to Know). And she still loves him, but he’s gone now, but she can handle it—it’s why her goodbye song is more upbeat.
But I like the Jamie theory better. It’s more cohesive.
Did you watch The Last Five Years? What’s your favourite song? How did you interpret the story?