random reviews, recollections & reminiscings

Thursday, December 1, 2005

REEL REVIEWS: Rent (2005) ***

Rent (2005) poster

rated PG-13
(for mature thematic material involving drugs
and sexuality, and for some strong language.)
2 hrs. 15 min.
story, music & lyrics by Jonathan Larson
screenplay by Steve Chbosky
produced by Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, & Allan S. Gordon
directed by Chris Columbus

When a stage musical is touted as a "revolutionary rock opera" I start to feel a lil suspect. I mean, the only rock operas I'm care about are the Who's "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia." I remember getting so sick of hearing the ads on the radio for this musical when it was making it's theatrical rounds. Maybe it's cuz I know how hype can be and how overexposed some forms of entertainment can get. Maybe it was cuz radio stations just play the same ads over and over. Regardless, I never saw the musical Rent on stage and now that I've seen the movie version, I wish I had.

Based on Puccini's La Boheme, tells the story of one year in the life of friends living the Bohemian life in modern day East Village New York. Among the group are our narrator nerdy love struck filmmaker Mark; the object of his affection his former lover, Maureen; Maureen's Harvard educated public interest lawyer lover Joanne; Mark's roommate HIV+ former junkie, Roger; Roger's lover the HIV+ drug addicted exotic dancer, Mimi; their former roommate HIV+ computer genius Tom Collins; Collins' HIV+ drag queen street musician lover Angel; and Benny, a former member of the group who married money and has since become their landlord and the opposite of everything they stand for. Shows how much changes or doesn't change in the 525,600 minutes that make up a year.
This film adaptation of Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning rock opera tells the story of one year in the life of a group of bohemians struggling in modern day East Village New York. The story centers around Mark (Anthony Rapp) and Roger (Adam Pascal), two roommates. While a former tragedy has made Roger numb to life, Mark tries to capture it through his attempts to make a film. In the year that follows, the group deals with love, loss, AIDS, and modern day life in one truly powerful and at times moving story. Rosario Dawson, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Tracie Thoms, and Taye Diggs also star.
I liked the movie well enough. The songs remained with me as I left the theatre as well as the strong performances (I say performances cuz this was acting and singing). I've been in a few musicals so I know that combining acting and singing can often be quite challenging. It's just that, well, I felt a coupla things were missing here.

First, I feel it woulda been better live cuz of what a live audience experiences at a musical. Seeing the amazing sets, feeling free to sing along with the performers, and actually seeing them instead of a screen makes it all the more personal. After all, there is some pretty personal subject matter to take in here. In a movie theatre, you just don't get the same experience that you would live. The movie was still moving where it needed to be though, just had this feeling that live would be....more.
Second, I had a hard time empathizing with some of these bohemians. It wasn't because some were HIV+, gay, or strung-out. It's the ones who complained about how to make a living without "selling out" artistically. I've heard and seen this in real life and on screen too too much. I mean when you can't afford to eat or put clothes on your back then ya go get a job. Call it what you will, a job is a job. How else are ya gonna survive? It's not romantic to hold firm to some artistic dream and yet not make ends meet. It's stupid.

Beyond alla that it was great to see the talented cast of the original 1996 Broadway run was kept intact except for newcomers Dawson (playing Mimi) and Thoms (playing Joanne). Who both do stellar jobs with their characters. Dawson does a fantastic job on the rocker "Out Tonight" and her duet with Pascal "I Should Tell You" was really heartfelt. Thoms has a great energy and voice as seen in the song "Take me or Leave Me." Both of these women bring great turns on these characters that only add to the original performers.

The movie was great fun with well written music and an often times compelling story.
If you like musicals, try to check this out in the movie theatre. Columbus does a great job and weaving all the songs & storyline together. there is some graphic material as far as drug use and some scantily clad-ness, but overall it's not too much to bear. If you're not into musicals, maybe this is a movie you'll RENT.

Rent (2005) Rosario Rent (2005) Menzel

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