This week, John Dellaporta (Actor/Writer/Director) geeks out (via Gchat) with Caitlin S. Griffin (Marketer/Educator/Artist)
Today's Topic: The Last Five Years... the movie!
Caitlin Griffin: Hi, John! I have been itching to dish about this movie with you since it was released.
John Dellaporta: Thanks! I've been on a quest to find more people who've actually seen it to gush about it to, so thank YOU!
Caitlin: How many times have you watched this movie?
John: I've seen it twice, both times on Video on Demand. Did you make it to a theatre?
Caitlin: I rented it from iTunes. To prepare for this, I sang all of Cathy's songs last night.
Caitlin: Let's start with the casting: I had reservations about Jeremy Jordan, but was ALL about Anna Kendrick.
John: Anna Kendrick is my future soulmate. My feelings on Jeremy Jordan are well-publicized, BUT I think he was terrific in the movie.
Caitlin: Overall, I wanted more emotive reaction from both of them. If we're going to see the other side of a traditionally one-sided conversation then the other side should really BE there, too.
John: I feel like the choice was justified. They were able to make the textual fact that these are mostly monologues work. A good example is "See I'm Smiling," where the conversation until the argument is two people not actually talking.
Caitlin: But "If I Didn't Believe in You," just felt numb.
John: I think that was definitely a choice, especially considering how they decided to stage "A Part of That", where she's just getting buried at the parties.
Caitlin: Do you think the film was (like me) "Team Cathy?"
John: I think that just because people accuse the play of being very "Team Jamie," I noticed the neutrality of the movie. It may have swayed "Team Cathy," but Jamie's clear not-readiness for his success was a strong element.
Caitlin: I was definitely way more aware of HOW YOUNG they were when they met.
John: They're KIDS! They don't even know how they're screwing up! They definitely made very unique choices for the movie. How desperate and kind of ugly Jamie is in "If I Didn't Believe in You" instead of becoming that sort of "St. Jamie" you can see onstage. That song is so patronizing.
Caitlin: I hadn't really heard it that way before, but... it is! Mind blown!
John: It can be either patient and poetic, or patronizing and last-ditch. I'm now convinced that the handling of that one song is ultimately what determines if the production is #TeamJamie or #TeamCathy.
Caitlin: So the timeline – traveling from present to past with Cathy and from past to present with Jamie – I think it MOSTLY worked.
John: It was wonky. I actually tried taking notes on it during my second watch, but the banners in "I'm a Part of That" threw me off. "We're already in 2010?" I think that's the publication year for the book? And we're meant to track time through the Ohio season boards and the number of weeks on the bestseller list.
Caitlin: I was a bit disappointed in "The Next Ten Minutes."
John: Such a big climax in the show was a lesser moment of the movie. I liked the shot of the hands as bumper, though.
Caitlin: I was aching for more dimension there - like reaching forward and back instead of from either side so that when it was reversed it would track. But the last scene was awesome.
John: It was incredible.
Caitlin: Do we know how Jason Robert Brown felt about the movie?
John: From what I understand, he was closely involved with this adaptation.
Caitlin: Ok, I have to wonder - Kendrick had SO MUCH composure, but sometimes I can sense where Cathy's songs could tilt into "my crazy ex-wife," because this is sort of auto-biographical for Brown, right?
John: Sort of...there was the whole issue with the cut song... have you heard "I Could Be In Love With Someone Like You"?
John: Yeah, I think that made it a bit "close to home."
Caitlin: There is something about this music that sticks with me every time - I'm stuck on that loop for days.
John: What did you think of the tweaked arrangements?
Caitlin: My non-musical-training shows. I don't know that I noticed that!
John: They added drums! It had a bit of a poppier sound. New orchestrations by Brown, FYI.
Caitlin: It did feel updated, but I couldn't feel the weight of its history on it.
John: I remember being told by a friend in a recent production that Brown didn't want them modernizing with things like Skype because he thought the story wouldn't unfold the same way. Which is funny, considering how well the movie uses Skype, and how he WAS IN FACT INVOLVED WITH IT.
Caitlin: Plus - that cameo at Cathy's good audition?
John: "That was lovely."
John: What were your misgivings? Seems like we're kind of having a big love-fest here
Caitlin: HA! I felt like I was being hyper-critical!
John: It's "The Last Five Years"... nothing has invited more micro-criticism.
Caitlin: Ok. Here it is: I had one HUGE micro-criticism
John: Uh huh...
Caitlin: JAMIE DOES NOT MAKE IT TO OHIO UNTIL "See I'm Smiling" RIGHT?! SO WHY WAS HE THERE AT THE END OF "Summer in Ohio"?!?
John: (searches for dramaturg cap...) Ok, you could TECHNICALLY argue that Jamie "made it to Ohio" despite things being obviously strained post - "If I Didn't Believe in You."
Caitlin: Fair. Ok, favorite part: "Summer in Ohio." It was SO funny.
John: Something about actually SEEING a gay midget named Carl playing Tevye and Porgy (and a WHITE Porgy, no less!)
Caitlin: RIGHT?!? AND to give credit where it's due: I hate the Schmuel song but I LOVED it in the movie.
John: Jordan's charisma really sold it. THAT was one scene where having the other person present added a lot. Kendrick's biggest virtue was giving great reactions. Same with "Shiksa Goddess," It said so much about Jamie that they set that song during their first time in bed. And her bottling up her anxiety during "Climbing Uphill," which illuminates her big faults in the relationship, was powerful for me.
Caitlin: Each episode was a study on the songs. On their own they could be perfect little readings - like Cathy's faceless ex in "I can do better," and Jamie's interaction with the forgettable hottie during "A Miracle Would Happen."
John: And how "Nobody Needs to Know" once again focused on a sort of numbness and self-loathing, and also his continuing to blame it on Cathy. It was the most I ever sympathized with and simultaneously hated Jamie.
Actually, one of my favorite things about the movie is the sense that there isn't anything super special about Jamie and Cathy. They could be any relationship. It's insignificant, and yet the most important thing in the world.
Caitlin: It's one of those that just listening to I can drop myself right into, and I could also drop myself into this movie to an extent.
John: The filmic intimacy helped for me. Listening you can over-focus on the lyrics themselves and get wrapped up in the "what went wrong."
Caitlin: The simplicity of it, really, along with the attention to detail.
John: Things that mean things to them - like Jamie spinning the lamp as part of his Schmuel story, and then idly twirling it as he wanders in "Nobody Needs to Know," that actually really got to me. I forgot they were ever that happy or even the same couple.
John: Life, man.
Caitlin: Who even thinks to put tiny chamber musicals on film like this?
John: I know! 10 years ago this movie would have been impossible. I think it's ingenious that they released the movie this way. The one major criticism I had of the movie was the overall pacing. On rewatch it was much better. It was a movie made to be rewatched, and they released it in a manner that makes that super easy.
Caitlin: I am strongly considering owning it. Digital-only makes me a little nervous it'll disappear. But I do need to watch it again now so I guess I'll get over it!
John: Yeah...I guess I should worry more about that? I own a shocking amount as digital-only. But then – 2AM purchases seldom carry that sort of second-guessing.