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Rent - The best movie musical you haven't seen

  • Feb 12, 2007
Pros: truly emotional performances, fantastic music, solid adaptation

Cons: It's only 2 hours long

The Bottom Line: Rent is one of the best movies of last year. Featuring fine music and wonderful performances, this is a must-see.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

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. It’s 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 they’re 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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More Rent reviews
Quick Tip by . August 04, 2010
posted in Music Matters
I have seen this show multiple times. Once with Niel Patrick Harris as Mark. It was awesome.
review by . November 22, 2008
I watched this movie late last night   Watched it again today   I've never seen a better film   It took my breath away     Music, dancing, drama, love   The acting is intense   And when I reached the "tango" scene   I gave up all pretence     Towards the end I dropped my guard   I sobbed, and then I cried   The tears poured down upon my cheeks   And they would not subside …
review by . February 22, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Having seen RENT on the stage with the eardrum assaulting, miked sound from each performer's head mike coupled with the small but deadly 'pit band' this viewer rented this film with trepidation. And after paying close attention to the transfer of the play to the screen little has change in feelings about this work.    Loosely based on Puccini's 'La Boheme' (with some direct quotes in the score) this musical drama has much to say about AIDS, kids as artists, survival, all forms …
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Jeffrey Kafer ()
Ranked #152
Voice over artist specializing in audiobook narration. Hear more at and
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Rent, the show that in 1996 gave voice to a Broadway generation, has finally become an energetic, passionate, and touching movie musical. Based loosely on Puccini'sLa Bohème, it focuses on the year in the life of a group of friends in New York's East Village--"bohemians" who live carefree lives of art, music, sex, and drugs. Well, carefree until Mark, an aspiring filmmaker (Anthony Rapp), and Roger, an aspiring songwriter (Adam Pascal), find out they owe a year's rent to Benny (Taye Diggs), a former friend who had promised them free residence when he married the landlord's daughter. Roger has also attracted the attention of his downstairs neighbor, Mimi (Rosario Dawson), while Mark's former girlfriend, Maureen (Idina Menzel), has found a new romance in a lawyer named Joanne (Tracie Thoms). Philosophy professor Tom (Jesse L. Martin) finds his soul mate in drag queen Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia). But because this is the late-'80s, the threat of AIDS is always present.
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