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First of all, lets get this out of the way: I have not seen Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years on stage.

So, I walked into the movie adaptation of it feeling a little trepidatious: plays with few actors tend to often feel weird and claustrophobic on the big screen (remember Polanski’s misguided Carnage or Venus in Fur?), and stage musicals often rely on the you-are-here-WITH-US energy/connection with the live audience to truly work.

Having said all that, I very much enjoyed the 90-or-so minutes I spent in the company of Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, who star as Cathy and Jamie, in the sexy, funny, sad and sometimes downright brutal story of love and heartbreak, brought to us to the big screen by Richard LaGravenese (who was last seen instructing all of Hollywood to chew all the scenery off of Beautiful Creatures).

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The story is simple, though the way it is told is special enough to keep even the most jaded romantic comedy naysayer engaged: Cathy and Jamie fall in love, stay in love, only to fall out of love in the span of five years. This is not a spoiler because, well, the story goes in both time directions so you know within minutes about how it both starts and ends: the first scene you see is Cathy, at the end of the relationship, singing about Jamie being gone, and the second scene is Jamie singing about his Shiksa Goddess in the aftermath of their first date.

The interesting stuff, of course, happens in the middle. Young and in love, the two occupy that particular fairytale universe of New York city artists and writers, which is maybe a more surreal setting to some than even Anna Kendrick’s latest straight-up fairytale Into The Woods. She is an actress, he is a writer. Of course, one of them becomes successful before the other (that it is HE that soars and she that stays behind at home, is maybe a predictable downfall in terms of what the dynamic could have been, but you know, nothing is perfect these days). And, of course, it all ravels and unravels with music.

Some of the songs lend themselves well to the film format (Kendrick’s sexed-up, funny, game “Summer in Ohio” is a highlight) and some, not quite as much (Johnson, a Broadway vet, is a great presence and energy but his “The Schmuel Song” needs a little extra oomph, though you could see it slaying on stage). Both actors do an admirable job of, well, keeping it real. Kendrick is, as always, lovely both when she is happy and when she is sad, but it is Johnson who proves to be the truly brave performer here. His Jamie, with his Franzen/McInerney overtones, is charming but never quite likable in a way that most disgustingly successful, disgustingly young people are, and it is to his credit that he never, ever tries to make you side with him, despite the dimples and the smile and a great way he runs and bikes and hugs across the screen.

In the end, ups and downs aside, what we have on our hands is a love story, as small and big at the same time (as most love stories are), but executed aptly and which should serve as a welcome, refreshing break from the Valentine’s Day/Fifty Shades madness that you need during a cold, cold winter like this.