Movie Review: Rent

It has been a while since I've seen a musical and before the movie was released, I've only heard good things about the Broadway production of "Rent". I've never seen the stage production so I had nothing to compare it to. Which is probably a good thing because most musicals don't transfer from the stage to the big screen that well. From the reviews that I've read this is the problem that some critics had, but I've learned a while ago not to worry too much about what critics have to say. But I digress.

There is a lot happening in this movie. The story follows a group of friends dealing with poverty, relationships, and AIDS. It is set in New York's East Village and centers around two roommates, Mark (Anthony Rapp) and Roger (Adam Pascal). Mark is in the process of creating a documentary on the life of his friends, while Roger, an ex-addict who contracted AIDS from his ex-girlfriend, is struggling with completing a song. Collins (Jesse L. Martin) is an ex-roommate who returns and is mugged two minutes upon his arrival, and is a professor at NYU and has AIDS.

After Collins is mugged, he is assisted by Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia), a street performing drag queen who also has AIDS. The two soon become a couple. Living below the two roommates is Mimi (Rosario Dawson). She is a dancer and drug addict and has a thing for Roger. He is afraid to get close to her because of his disease (he has AIDS also). There is also a lesbian couple, Joanne (Tracie Thomas) and Maureen (Idina Mezel) that are having issues with their relationship with regards to trust and control. By the way, Maureen once dated Mark who is assisted by Joanne when he his offered a position at a major news organization after selling the footage of a protest headed by Maureen.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in this movie. In addition, Mark and Roger's ex-roommate, Benny (Taye Diggs) is trying to kick them out of the apartment to make room for a studio. The twists becomes endless, but you are never confused as to what is happening.

What worked so well for this movie is that music and the acting carried the day, as should be the case in any good musical. This was not a movie that preached about AIDS or any other social ills. It was a movie that simply showed the lives of friends and how they respond to one another as life deals them many obstacles and challenges. There is a scene where Collins and Angel attend a meeting with a small group of other individuals that have contracted the AIDS virus. They are talking when one guy testifies about his fear. The song that follows is one of the best in the movie and is indicative of its tone:

"There's only us, there's only this,
forget regret, or life is yours to miss
no other road, no other way,
no day but today"

Another scene with this same group of individuals showed them sitting, talking and laughing. The camera pans around the room while showing some of the individuals disappearing. But there is still laughing and talking even while they are dying one at a time. Finally, the camera gets around to one of the main characters, Angel. He succumbs to the disease. The transition from a vibrant, funny and outgoing personality to a man's body destroyed by the AIDS virus is a sad one. Again, the movie wasn't preachy, even at the Angel's funeral when there would have been a perfect opportunity to do so. It stuck to the script and simply showed the relationships and how they were dealing with the loss.

"Rent" never slows down and Taye Diggs' character is the only main character that you never get to really understand. It is a two hour movie and at times when you think it is over it keeps going. But that is not a negative as much as it is a strange way of making a movie. This is not a musical like Grease where there is a lot of dialogue between singing. There is no more than five to seven minutes between songs if that. So, if you are not truly into musicals, it may take some time to get used to the pace. The music will eventually draw anyone into the script and most people will enjoy it. Trust me when I say that it is a very good movie. For those of you that enjoy musicals, you will enjoy this one. For those of you that don't, I say try it anyway. It may just surprise you.

Directed by: Chris Columbus
Steve Chbosky: (screenplay)
Jonathan Larson: (musical book music and lyrics)



7 Responses to Movie Review: Rent

  1. jaimie Says:
    I enjoyed the movie too. I'm glad we saw it.
  2. bold as love Says:
    let's see- most of the characters protrayed in this flick have the AIDS virus. Hmmmmm........sounds depressing.Iam not feeling this flick. Anyway, I never go see a chick flick that a brother had to go see with his girl, unless 2 or more brothers that had to go see the chick flick with their girls give it the thumbs up.- So i'm going to wait and see this one later, provided I'm not roped into going to see it by a female friend.-
  3. Malik Says:
    I was in drama school when the play opened in New York, and one of my regrets is that I never went to see it. It was the show that everyone wanted to be in. I remember there was an opening for ONE spot in the cast, and they were having auditions across the street from my classes. The line literally stretched around the block. I think they were standing out there for about seven hours and then they just started sending people home. I'll definitely check out the movie.
  4. James Manning Says:
    Actually Bold, I was going to check this out anyway. I am one of the artsy types that likes musicals. I think you would like it because it is more about the friendships than it is about AIDS.


    I do want to see this on stage. My girl was telling me that there were some differences from the stage production but that is always the case.
  5. Jaimie Says:
    Bold as Love sounds like a drag (queen).
  6. NewYorkMoments Says:
    Taye Diggs is super hot.
  7. Cynthia Says:
    Thanks for the review. Since I don't watch TV that much, generally when I go to the movies, we see whatever movie that is showing at the time we come. I would have been pissed off if I had paid money to see this.

    Did you know that three of the ten HIV defining proteins are ubiquitously expressed. One of them is required for T-Cell function and another is called Actin. You really have to ask yourself, what are they calling HIV and what are people dying from?