Pay "Rent"

Nov. 29, 2005, midnight | By Alexis Egan | 14 years, 7 months ago

Don't wait "another day" to see film version Broadway hit

How much would you pay to be near your friends, your only family? How much is staying by the side of the love of your life and being near your best friend worth? How many secrets would you keep, lies would you tell and fights would you have? "Rent," a Broadway musical adapted to the silver screen, deals with the complex answers to these questions through the depiction of a group of friends living in New York City.

The story opens in New York at the end of the 1980s, where a group of eight friends is struggling to mend relationships, overcome AIDS and battle eviction. Throughout the film, each of the characters face challenges, and whether it is drug addictions or failing relationships, all of the actors play their parts phenomenally.

As Roger (Adam Pascal) struggles to forget the past and embrace the future, his roommate Mark (Anthony Rapp) attempts to complete a documentary of his New York City's East Village. Meanwhile, Mark's ex-girlfriend, Maureen (Idina Menzel) protests the evictions instituted by Benny (Taye Diggs), an old friend who now owns their apartment complex. This plot coincides as lovers Tom Collins (Jesse L. Martin) and Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia) try to live with AIDS.

Even though the numerous plots seem confusing at first, the organization of the film is easily understood. In a cast of six of the original eight Broadway actors, much of the magic of the hit musical is preserved. The two newcomers, Rosario Dawson and Tracy Thoms, blend in with the rest of the cast perfectly. Dawson plays the dancer and junkie Mimi, while Thoms plays Maureen's lawyer girlfriend Joann.

All of the actors have unique voices that stand out. For example, Thoms has a strong passionate voice, matched equally by her lover's bold melodious singing. Heredia, whose character is a drag queen, has an extremely skillful voice, sounding distinctly womanly in most songs, but tinged with masculinity in others. Other characters, most notably Mark and Tom, have strong voices capable of expressing endless emotion in just a few lines. The actors' talents help bring musical to mystifying life.

Jonathon Larson's rock score rivals that of the original rock musical: The Who's "Tommy." Beautifully composed music and moving lyrics harmonize with the actors' versatile talents. Even though the music was written in the early 90s, the score still sounds fresh a decade later. The film reflects the musical almost perfectly through the actor's performing and singing skills. The only notable difference is that the song "Seasons of Love," which opens act two on Broadway, now begins the film as a prologue.

Originating in 1996, the bittersweet story of "Rent" is just as true now as it was in the 90s. Based loosely on the play "La Boheme," Larson's musical was written after the peak of the 1980's AIDS crisis. The fear and tension of the crisis is reflected in the musical, particularly when characters are unsure of society's attitude towards AIDS. "Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care?" questions Tom Collins. Acceptance of AIDS is common theme throughout "Rent," one that is dealt with delicately and informatively.

Even though "Rent" deals with AIDS, it does not have the feel of a documentary. In fact, characters' infection with AIDS is dealt with subtly through veiled lines like "your own blood cells betray." However, towards the end of the musical, the effects of the infection become noticeable, changing the lives of the eight friends drastically.

The actor's skillful talents and the emotional lyrics help "Rent" successfully make the transformation from a play to a movie. Whether or not you are a fan of the Broadway musical, director Chris Columbus's "Rent" will grab your attention with its beautifully written lyrics, original awe-inspiring cast and complex storyline.

"Rent" (135 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving drugs and sexuality, and for some strong language.

Alexis Egan. Alexis is a (very) short junior, who is very pleased to be writing for Chips Online with all her friends. Along with writing, her other hobbies are playing soccer, reading about Mount Everest and listening to any Irish music. Her favorite movie is The Princess … More »

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