I didnt quite know what to expect when I sat down to watch Rent (2005); it was not what I expected. I have of course heard of the smash Pulitzer and Tony Award winning Broadway musical, but I knew little of its content.
Directed by Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone), Rent follows the lives of a group of young Bohemians in the East Village of New York City, as they struggle with life, love (heterosexual & homosexual), poverty, and AIDS. The big screen adaptation is also a musical and features some very well written and performed original songs, but adequate choreography.
Most of the cast of Rent was plucked from the original Broadway musical, including Jesse L. Martin (Collins), Idina Menzel (Maureen), Taye Diggs (Benny), Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Angel), Adam Pacal (Roger), and Anthony Rapp (Mark). Only Rosario Dawson (Mimi) and Traci Thoms (Joanne) were not part of the original musical.
Rent takes place over a year, hence the opening number in which the cast sings "Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear/five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?" It is a year in which one of them will die from AIDS; indeed three of the close-knit group of friends has the fatal disease, and that and other social ills seem to define their meager lives. All but Benny who has married up, but not out of the neighborhood.
Rent moved a long at a pretty brisk pace; there were certainly no overly boring moments in the film. The depiction of Bohemian live-style was somewhat scattered, but otherwise well represented, though strong character development was not this movies strong point.
The performances were mostly laudable; I especially enjoyed the various dance numbers, but I thought there should have been more of them; who knew Jesse L. Martin from Law & Order fame could sing and dance so well? There was no chemistry between Idina Menzel (Kissing Jessica Stein) and Traci Thoms (Cold Case) and it made their intimate moments seem largely forced, but individually both actresses turned in fine performances.
It has been pointed out--most recently by my wife--that Rent looks and feels dated. I'm not sure I agree, because like or not AIDS is not going away, as a matter of fact it making a much lauded comeback, especially in the inner-city in the gay community. As is heroin use; another theme of the movie. But Rent offered not real solutions to the problems; it only dealt with them in a detached high earth view despite the impact it had on the group of friends lives. There was not emotional attachment for me, and so I didnt really invested in the character that died. Rent is not that sort of a movie it is a musical and should be viewed as such.
Rent is good a Saturday night with friends when your first choice has been taken.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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