Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Cast Makes 'Rent' Worth the Price
To preface my review of Rent, I feel obligated to give a brief history of my background with the show. I've seen the stage show more than ten times, traveled more than 500 miles to see it (on more than one occasion) and camped out in the freezing ass cold to get front row "rush" tickets many of those times. I have all the words memorized, I know the costumes, and I am intimately familiar with the story.
That said, I thought this movie was really quite good. It was wonderful seeing the faces and expressions of the performers that were, up until now, only voices on love-worn CD for me. Every character performed their ass off, not only in the musical numbers but in the spoken word scenes as well. That includes new cast additions Rosario Dawson (Mimi) and Tracie Thoms (Joanne) who both fit into the ensemble as though they'd originated their roles. My personal favorites, however, were Jesse L. Martin as the heartful Tom Collins and Wilson Jermaine Heredia as the plastic bucket-beating Angel, a drag queen with a penchant for bringing people together. These two not only sing well, but their performances are so natural and heartbreaking that I scarcely remember the other actors I've seen perform the roles live.
It was truly a joy to watch all these people who have such passion for the show enact what was before a two dimensional stage production in the glorious 3-D world of the silver screen, giving new body and life to the story as a whole. Several of the musical numbers, including the show-stopping "Rent" and the wickedly entertaining "Tango Maureen" were performed with such artful gusto that you barely recognize the movie as being the work of Chris Columbus, the same kid-friendly director who turned Robin Williams into a bore in Bicentennial Man and leeched the magic out of the first two installments of the Harry Potter franchise.
Unfortunately, many of scenes suffered from Columbus's lazy camera lens. Perhaps an attempt at poignancy, lingering shots made "I'll Cover You Reprise" and "Your Eyes," two of the most gripping songs in the whole show, almost boring to sit through. Even the happy- go-lucky love song "I'll Cover You" was made awkward by a fairly drab dramatic lens. While the songs and performances make your heart soar, the camera often leaves your feet anchored firmly to the ground. Similarly, there are some scenes too pretentious to bear. In one instance, we see Roger (Adam Pascal) driving with the top down through the dusty deserts of New Mexico, wind blowing through his liberated mane as he and Mark's pop-rocky duet "What You Own" plays wistfully in the background. What doesn't translate in the scene is Roger's torment at having just fled perhaps the last great love of his life... instead it feels like you're watching a scene out of a Hallmark Channel movie.
The pacing seems a bit off throughout the whole production, and although it might have been due to the fact that I saw it in a theater half-full of people who might as well have been dead in their chairs, I'd probably attribute it to the fact that there are actually breaks between songs (the stage version was a rock opera with very few spoken lines.) Frankly, though, there's a payoff to not having everything sung: the true brilliance of Jonathan Larson's original words is made even apparent... they actually sound like things people would say to one another rather than song lyrics. Still, the energy and momentum lost by not filming it as an all-singing show should have been made up with interesting and energetic cinematography, something a better director could have achieved (see Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge!). As it is, some of the film's more dramatic scenes fall flat for lack of energy.
In the end, while some of the grit and raw energy of the original stage show might have gone out the window, the passion in this story of a family of mismatched East Villagers struggling to truly live remains in tact through the marvelous performances of each and every member of the cast. And while the choice in director might have been regrettable, it seems a fitting tribute to forget the regret of what what might have been and enjoy the show we've been given. It's an experience that, as with its live predecessor, bares repeating.