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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 6.12%
Just Average: 12.24%
Pretty Crappy: 25.51%
Sucks: 18.37%

7 reviews, 56 user ratings

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by Mel Valentin

"A skillful, worthy adaptation of the Tony-winning musical."
5 stars

Directed by Chris Columbus ("Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Home Alone"), "Rent" is the highly anticipated screen adaptation of the late Jonathan Larson's 1996 Tony and Pulitzer prize-winning stage musical. Sadly, Larson died from an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm less than a month before "Rent" received its Off-Broadway premiere. He was 36. Larson, however, left behind a celebratory, innovative (innovative in large part because it featured gay, bisexual, and transgender characters) rock opera centered on an East Village community of marginalized, unconventional artists, their friends, lovers, and the romantic and personal challenges (e.g., poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, illness, and HIV/AIDS) they face over the course of a tumultuous year in Manhattan's Lower East Side, circa 1989.

Inspired by Puccini's classic opera, "La Boheme," Rent opens on Christmas Eve 1989. Roger (Adam Pascal), a reclusive musician/songwriter struggling to overcome a personal tragedy, and Mark (Anthony Rapp), a documentary filmmaker facing an uncertain future, are roommates. Most of the musical (and the film) takes place in and around Roger and Mark's loft, a converted warehouse space. Other key characters who are or who become intimately connected to Roger and Mark include Mimi (Rosario Dawson), their downstairs neighbor and an exotic dancer; Mark's ex-girlfriend, Maureen (Idina Menzel), a self-centered, pretentious performance artist; Maureen's new girlfriend, Joanne (Tracie Thoms); Thomas B. "Tom" Collins (Jesse L. Martin), a gay philosophy professor at New York University; Angel Shunard (Wilson Jermaine Heredia), a flamboyant, transgender street drummer/performer; and Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III (Taye Diggs), a former roommate/friend who's gone upscale and married their landlord's daughter.

Rent's first half turns on Maureen's scheduled performance/protest (think a third- or fourth-rate Laurie Anderson, and obviously meant to be taken with tongue-firmly-in-cheek) of Benny's redevelopment project and its aftermath, with the three couples, Roger and Mimi, Tom and Angel, and Maureen and Joanne, moving closer or farther apart as their conflicting desires, needs, and neuroses dictate (with Mark sadly the odd man out), with the second half of the film jumping forward episodically over the course of the year, ultimately settling on Christmas Eve, 1990. Ultimately, each character and each couple are offered the opportunity to overcome challenges that test tolerance, empathy, compassion, and forgiveness, with at least one character learning the hard lessons involved in caring for a dying companion, as well as recovering to find meaning in friendship and community.

On the surface, these life lessons may seem obvious, simple, or even simplistic (as is the "live for today" mantra the characters repeat throughout the film). They may be, thematically speaking, but the characters learn these life lessons only after prolonged struggle, self-doubt, and major reversals, which, in turn, make the life lessons more palatable and more meaningful to the characters and the audience. Delivered as straight drama, these life lessons would be still considered trite and/or obvious (at least by the more cynical among us), but delivered within a musical via songs, lyrics, and performance, an alchemical transformation occurs, exposing the inner lives of the characters to the audience with an immediacy otherwisw unavailable.

We wouldn't be discussing Rent, let alone a stage-to-screen adaptation, without Jonathan Larson's songs and lyrics, which, with one or two minor exceptions, serve to advance the storylines, sharpen conflicts, reveal inner thoughts and feelings (or not), while creating and sustaining a level of emotion and emotional attachment to the characters and their circumstances that few modern musicals have been able to achieve. As expected from a Tony- and Pulitzer-prize winning musical, Rent has an overabundance of catchy, memorable songs (all of them, of course, passionately delivered by a dedicated cast), including “Seasons of Love,” “Rent,” “One Song Glory,” “Light My Candle,” “I Should Tell You,” “Tango: Maureen,” “Out Tonight,” "Will I," “I'll Cover You,” “La Vie Boheme,” “Take Me or Leave Me,” “What You Own,” and “Your Eyes.” Not surprisingly, the original cast recording turned out to be one of the most commercially successful of its kind. The soundtrack for the film adaptation should be no different, thanks to most of the original cast returning for the film, with the exception of Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thoms as Mimi and Joanne, respectively (both acquit themselves admirably in solo and group songs).

Although some detractors will point to the actors' relative age (and the presumed age of the characters), bringing back most of the original cast for the film adaptation was the first of several laudable decisions made by Chris Columbus, an acknowledged "renthead" who's spent the better part of a decade nurturing Rent from stage to screen (Columbus is best known for his profitable, family-oriented films). Smartly, Columbus goes with a gritty, urban authenticity, circa 1989 (the loft/warehouse space, interiors and exteriors, were actually filmed in San Francisco's Treasure Island, but most viewers would assume that Rent was actually shot in Manhattan and not on a set), with only the occasional misstep or oversight.

More importantly, Columbus "opens up" "Rent" for the screen organically. Directors adapting stage musicals as a feature film generally take two approaches: static, stagy shots with minimal camera movement (an approach common to musicals during Hollywood's Golden Age in the 1950s) or the hyperkinetic, MTV-style popularized by Baz Luhrmann in "Moulin Rouge." Columbus takes a less obtrusive, but no less cinematic approach that emphasizes the dynamic performers and the ensemble pieces. For that and more, old and new "Rent" fans will find themselves extremely pleased with the results onscreen.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13515&reviewer=402
originally posted: 11/24/05 13:45:40
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User Comments

4/02/14 Toni Let's play How Many Times Can Rent Make You Cringe. I've lost count 1 stars
9/18/13 Annie G I feel like I saw a different film than the reviewer - not too bad. 3 stars
11/18/12 Meredith B Beautiful version of the Broadway play! 5 stars
11/22/09 Jeff Wilder Good overall. But duplicates play rather than translates it into a cinematic form. 3 stars
11/18/08 Rachel wtf is with you haters? this movie is amazing, I cried at the funeral! 5 stars
4/27/08 Not too bad 1/2 of people who loved the movie here launched ad-hominem attacks on those who didn't. 3 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann This musical bites.Pure & simple.It's like an opera written by Beyonce.Utter poo! 1 stars
6/15/07 Danielle Ophelia Is it relevant? Yes. Is it worth your time? Probably not. 2 stars
4/17/07 David Pollastrini it was better on stage 3 stars
4/12/07 Anikka If you aren't mature and open enough to understand this movie don't watch it. It's amazing. 5 stars
4/01/07 marg Worst. Film. Wver. 1 stars
2/26/07 Loryn This is so off base it don't even merit a comment... 5 stars
2/20/07 johnnyfog Really clumsy in the beginning, but the material shines through enough to be alright 4 stars
2/12/07 Jenny RENT is amazing. You must be insane or so closed minded to have it not inspire you. 5 stars
12/25/06 johnnyfog I may be biased but Rosario's a goddess. Well she IS! 5 stars
11/27/06 venessa i think it was a nice play coverin a wide range of social issues.i didnt un/stand some part 5 stars
11/04/06 Reena Saw the play, it kicked ass, the movie... not so much, but still good. 4 stars
11/02/06 Pam My favorite movie! I dont know how people can hate it! 5 stars
10/16/06 ali absolutely amazing!! story line is heartfelt and moving! 5 stars
10/02/06 amityjo Saw the play. Hated it. Saw the movie. Hated it more. 1 stars
8/22/06 Alicia amazing, i absolutely loved it! 5 stars
7/29/06 Parker L this reviewer is a completely soulless jerk. this movie is moving as the show 5 stars
7/23/06 Constantine Mantelo Excruciating!!! (And that comes from someone who loves musicals) 1 stars
7/03/06 Evil Wolfie A good message, but unbearably bad music and lyrics. 2 stars
5/22/06 Sophia D. It was one of the BEST movies i EVER saw. I absolutely loved it and i love to sing to it. 5 stars
5/20/06 Angelluver People who don't like RENT are either too stupid or too miserable to enjoy it. 5 stars
5/07/06 Diane Perkins Loved this movie so much. Every actors performance flawless 5 stars
3/31/06 mela the best movie-musical i've seen since chicago 5 stars
3/23/06 Epi I love rent, and this loser critic doesn't know anything... 5 stars
2/19/06 Perry Mason The songs are just laughably bad. Almost as bad as an Andrew Lloyd Webber production. 1 stars
1/29/06 Andrew the film was excellent 5 stars
1/17/06 al thought the cast was great,dont care how old they are 4 stars
1/16/06 ella as a recovering "renthead", this movie was a terrible dissapointment 2 stars
1/03/06 Piz Jumps around a lot but for a musical-turned-movie it wasn't horrible. 3 stars
12/17/05 kasey I went to see it twice, I loved it so much! Must go with an open mind to enjoy it. 5 stars
12/11/05 Bill Stunning ensemble performances; those who don't get it are missing a gene from the pool 5 stars
12/08/05 Amy A whole lot of music, movement, dance, drama and angst in this movie. I'd see it again! 5 stars
12/04/05 Eric His name is Mark not Matt. It's like you didnt even pay attention. 5 stars
12/04/05 BrianWilly Heartfelt and beautiful 5 stars
12/04/05 Erica You must be open minded to enjoy this show!! Amazing and breathtaking!!! Loved it! 5 stars
12/03/05 Kelly Absolutely stunning! Worth a second see! 5 stars
12/02/05 John Ford Other than the opening number, this movie really blows. It's hard to follow the characters 1 stars
11/30/05 joey squids stupidest movie i ever saw....i walked out after an hour 1 stars
11/29/05 John Linton Roberson Everything I hated about my early twenties combined in one film. Oh joy. 1 stars
11/29/05 Zari Lopez I think the criticisms for the musical are unwarranted. The movie, acceptable. 4 stars
11/28/05 Jim Dude, you bust the film but get the characters wrong....MARK, not MATT 4 stars
11/27/05 Governor11201 Fame! + AIDS = CRAP 1 stars
11/27/05 Grandma Mil The best: Tango Maureen.Like La Boheme? You've got to be kidding! 2 stars
11/27/05 G Far better than any Chris Columbus film has a right to be. 4 stars
11/25/05 avoidance It's true, EVERYONE in New York has AIDS. 2 stars
11/25/05 hoosierpeach Moving, delightful, STILL Relevant Still TRUE 5 stars
11/25/05 Will Goody Juvenile and Dated 1 stars
11/24/05 baseball-nut Save your money! 2 stars
11/24/05 Jon Leonoudakis A hollow, soul-less take that lacks the grit and heart of the musical. 3 stars
11/23/05 hibbyX Rosario Dawson is ugly. There, I said it. 1 stars
11/23/05 kokoro its XANADU for grad students 2 stars
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  23-Nov-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 21-Feb-2006



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