This 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 and Roger, 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 story.Written by
The original Broadway production of "Rent" opened at the Nederlander Theater on April 29, 1996, ran for 5123 performances, making it the ninth longest running show on Broadway (February 2013), and won the 1996 Tony Awards for the Best Musical, Book and Score. Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal recreated their stage roles in the movie version. Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Idina Menzel all received nominations for the 1996 Tony Awards for Best Actor, Actress, and Featured Actress in a Musical, respectively. Wilson Jermaine Heredia was the only member of the original cast to win a Tony, winning the 1996 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. See more »
In "La Vie Boheme," the joint/cigarette behind Collins's right ear disappears and then reappears in the next shot (as he announces that Maureen will perform "Native American tribal chants"). See more »
Mark, Angel, Maureen, Roger, Collins, Benjamin Coffin III, Mimi:
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? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes - how do you measure a year in the life? How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love... seasons of love.
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RENT opens full throttle with the cast loudly singing to show us that they are intensely angry about something, though just what they are angry about or why they feel compelled to put it into song is never made clear. Indeed, as the film meanders along for over two hours, it never really goes anywhere beyond the usual contrived plot complications about lovers breaking up and getting back together.
It is obviously going for a slice-of-life quality, trying to recreate a time and a place, in this case AIDS-era New York, circa 1990. The multi-award winning play is based on Puccini's opera "La Boheme," but the film rather apparently seeks inspiration from the screen version of HAIR. Like HAIR, RENT features a rambling plot that only provides an excuse for the songs; but unlike Milos Foreman's underrated classic, RENT is saddled with rather mundane music and cursed with lackluster staging. Tony awards and a Pulitzer prize notwithstanding, RENT drones from one barely memorable song to the next, trying to be soulfully operatic but revealing its greatest weakness: it's faux operetta can't conceal that it is an utterly trivial story about utterly trivial people.
HAIR has the added advantage of being about an era with distinction; the late 1960s were utterly unique in style, attitude and relevancy. Other than taking place at the heart of the AIDS epidemic, there really isn't anything that lends distinction to the milieu that RENT desperately tries to document; 1990 being not that much different from, say, 1975, or for that matter 2005. RENT has the sort of timeless banality that is purposely built into TV sitcoms so that they can play eternally in reruns; if the dialogue didn't mention what year it takes place, it would be difficult to tell. It is certainly difficult to care.
The cast repeatedly breaks into one song or another that pointedly celebrates nonconformity, as if such a thing was a unique and original concept. Unfortunately, so much of what the film embraces as being bohemian, seems less shockingly radical than just plain shallow and trendy. What is set forth as originality comes off as cliché, warmed over beatnik and/or hippie counterculture posturing. Rather than being universal in nature, the film's call for freethinking seems strangely generic. If anything, RENT seems geared to do little more than to romanticize poverty and failure.
A good example is the character of Mark Cohen, a wannabe filmmaker played by Anthony Rapp. Mark is cursed with a caring, middle-class family and is obviously slumming; the great tragedy he suffers during the course of the story is that he lands a high paying job with a future. Throughout the movie, he is constantly filming some sort of vague documentary about his own life, which prompts him to prattle on about his artistic integrity. To this end he utilizes an old-fashioned, hand-cranked camera, eschewing opportunities to use state-of-the-art equipment, let alone get money to finance his project. The resulting film proves to be little more than an amateurish home movie. He is not an artist; he's a kid playing with a toy. RENT is an ambitious effort about people without ambition, merely kids at play.
The roles are tailor-made to safely conform to PC standards of diversity; a carefully balanced quota of blacks, whites, Jews, Latinos, straights, gays, AIDS sufferers, addicts, "yuppie scum" and the now almost mandatory free spirit cross-dresser. But it is the type of diversity that is only skin deep; none of the characters stand out as unique individuals; they are diverse for political correctness sake. The characters come together to keep their crumbling tenement building from being torn down, apparently so the characters themselves don't have to actually get on with their inert lives. RENT is a contradictory story that celebrates nonconformity through characters who conform to their common fear of change and growth.
The film's milquetoast radicalism extends to its production, which is no more bold or original than its call for nonconformity. Director Chris Columbus makes little effort to experiment in staging or editing the musical numbers; when he isn't obviously copying A CHORUS LINE or HAIR, Columbus gives us an endless array of static shots of characters standing and singing; so much so that the rare inventive moment, such as Rapp and Tracie Thoms nicely doing "The Maureen Tango," seem strangely out of place. Had the film brushed aside its lame story and been more of a musical revue of showstoppers, (like HAIR, or CHICAGO, or GODSPELL or anything by Busby Berkeley or Astaire and Rodgers) then the superficiality of the material would be irrelevant. RENT strives to be neither original nor traditional and ends up not being much of anything.
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