Operas are a unique art form. Either you love them or hate them. And when they deal with controversial subject matter, that chasm can grow even deeper. So it is with Rent, a modern classic pop-opera that takes unbelievable situations and characters and brings out emotion that rings true.
Rent takes place in 1985 in the avante-garde Greenwich Village in New York. We learn very quickly that most of the characters have AIDS. The story is a year in the life and such, has no real plot in the sense of conflict and resolution. Instead of a single conflict, this movie is a potpourri of conflicts surrounding all of the characters' lives. Its a struggle with AIDS, depression, drug addiction, and of course, paying the rent. Benny (Taye Diggs) is a former resident and friend of our merry band of characters. As such, when he married into money, he bought the building his friends lived in and let them stay in it rent-free. But alas, the owners of the company he works for want to raze the building for other plans. In order to save their rent-free status, they need to stop one of their own, Maureen, from staging a protest. Mark happens to be the ex-boyfriend of Maureen who left him for a lawyer, Joanne. Add to the mix a transvestite, a musician and a heroin-loving exotic dancer and you've got the makings of a very depressing story.
But it's also uplifting. While this is a story of desperation, anxiety, and suffering, it is also an uplifting saga of hope and redemption, friendship and love. The actors do a marvelous job of running the gamut of emotions. All of the cast members from the Broadway debut reprise their roles (except two of them who are now too old to play the 20 something roles). Taye Diggs, Jesse Martin, and Rosario Dawson are the main names in the movie with the rest of the cast being filled out by top-notch performers.
The music of Rent is stunning, fabulous, and unforgettable. Just watch the opening song Seasons of Love. It's simply the cast standing on a stage, singing. The sheer emotion these performers belt out, along with the wonderfully lush harmonies that accompany them are some of the best Broadway show tunes I've ever heard. Given that this is an opera, most of the movie is sung. Some of the songs are slower, some fast, but all are timeless. I was mesmerized by the fantastic harmonies, crescendos and sheer emotion coming from these songs.
For those unfamiliar with opera, the setting may seem unrealistic. How many people in one square block can have AIDS? But realism is not the point. Evoking believable emotion is. Most of Shakespeare's tragedies were unrealistic, yet theyre classic. Pulling an emotional response from your audience is what matters and the only way to do that is with characters you care about and music that effects you. Rent does this like no other show I've experienced.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
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