Anna Kendrick set to lead in ‘The Last Five Years’ film, can she handle it?

Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick

It’s official! Anna Kendrick, breakout star of Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air and The Twilight saga,  has signed on to play Cathy in the film adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years.

The Last Five Years has been adapted for the screen by director and screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, whose credits include the upcoming Beautiful Creatures, P.S. I love you, Water for Elephants, and everyone’s favorite, the 1995 version of A Little Princess. LaGravenese will also direct, as the film begins its quest for financial backing.

The Last Five Years depicts the love story and relationship between leading characters Jamie and Cathy. But there’s a twist. The musical opens with Cathy at the end of the marriage and Jamie at the very beginning. Their stories continue in opposite directions, with their only real interaction in their wedding scene where the stories meet.

It first premiered in Chicago in 2001, opened Off-Broadway in 2002 and has since enjoyed a considerable cult-status among musical theatre lovers. An off-Broadway revival starring Betsy Wolfe and Adam Kantor is set to hit the Second Stage Theatre in 2013.

Since the announcement by the American Film Market in October, the Broadway blogosphere has been a-flutter with questions. Who will co-star? Is the format of the show even adaptable to the screen? Will Kendrick be able to fill the sizeable shoes of Cathy, a character whose songs have dominated the cabaret, musical revue and vocal recital circuits for nearly the last ten years? Seriously though, who will co-star??

While there not many answers to most of these questions yet, what we know is Kendrick is a strong choice for the musical’s leading lady. For those bloggers who lament the choice of yet another Hollywood actress to stumble through what they think rightfully belongs to Broadway, consider this. Kendrick is the third youngest Tony nominee in history for her role in the 1998 musical High Society. She was 12 years old. She continued to work in musicals until 2003 when she made her film debut in the movie-musical cult-hit CAMP. Her subsequent work was mostly in film, where she racked up nominations from Oscars to Teen Choice Awards for films like Up in the Air and Twilight and 50/50.

And in her latest musical venture, Kendrick carried her role of Pitch Perfect through her honest, almost dead-pan approach to the character. The antics of Rebel Wilson and the like wouldn’t have stood out without Kendrick’s jaded-but-inspired Beca. She brought a realness to what could have been an overly cheeky movie.

As far as The Last Five Years is concerned, if it was going to be a Hollywood actress, at least she’s got Broadway roots.

It’s undetermined whether the film will reflect the storytelling that the stage created but the film is in good hands; LaGravenese’s resume reflects a reverence for a good love story, and a taste for non-traditional story telling. Yet with such a music-heavy show, the case could be made for cutting songs or adding dialogue to keep the average movie-goer engaged. The show’s strength lies in its honesty, the familiarity of the situations. Numbers like “Climbing Uphill” and “Shiksa Goddess” achieve that magical universal specificity of suffering and joy. The challenge will be to keep the raw emotion in the music, especially with pre-recorded tracks.

Speculation on the role of Jamie ranges from Kendrick’s Pitch Perfect co-star Skylar Astin to Astin’s Spring Awakening co-star Jonathan Groff, to Glee star Darren Criss, to Hugh Jackman. In this debate, only one thing is certain: Norbert Leo Butz, who originated the role, is one tough act to follow.

 

Who do you think should star with Anna Kendrick? Do you think she was a good choice for Cathy? Let us know in the comments!

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