"Rent" kicks off a season of love

Nov. 28, 2005, midnight | By Eve Gleichman | 18 years, 3 months ago

Musical produces a must-see hit on screen

It was only a matter of time before revolutionary rock-opera "Rent" was brought to the silver screen. Director Rob Marshall made the transition magnificently with "Chicago," a production which earned six Academy Awards. And while director Chris Columbus may have trouble boasting the same for "Rent," the film doesn't do the Broadway musical anything short of justice.

The inevitable issue that Columbus runs into with translating "Rent" from stage to screen reveals itself from the first scene of the film. Eight beautiful people — Rent's central cast — stand in a single-file formation and perform the fan favorite "Seasons of Love," a tribute to what is to come in the hour and a half. But as a newbie to the whole "Rent" craze, I couldn't help but think, "This would look so much better on stage."

This problem continues throughout the film; some songs, like the "I'll Cover You" reprise, seem to come from nowhere — almost awkwardly — in places that would make more sense on stage.

The cast of "Rent" comes together for a great on-screen adaptation of the revolutionary musical.

Overlooking this unavoidable on-screen effect, the production is flawless, and presented brilliantly. The story is a beautiful depiction of eight New Yorkers making it through an existence burdened with drugs, AIDS and, most notably, the unaffordable rent.

Character development plays a key role as the movie progresses, as the characters find they must embrace one another when their lives cannot supply more. Ex-rock and roll star Roger (Adam Pascal) must overcome the death of his ex-girlfriend and open his heart to his neighbor Mimi (Rosario Dawson). Roger's roommate, Mark (Anthony Rapp), juggles with his hobby as an aspiring videographer, while emptying a sparse wallet into the pocket of his landlord, Benny (Taye Diggs). Meanwhile, Mark's ex-girlfriend Maureen (Idina Menzel) has her own problems with her new girlfriend, Joanne (Tracie Thoms), who wants Maureen's attention only for herself. Angel (Wilson Heredia) and his partner, Collins (Jesse Martin), must accept their early fate as AIDS victims while embracing the life they have ahead of them.

The dynamic members of the intricate story come together to celebrate the love that they have for their city and for one another, expressing themselves in a series of memorable songs. Highlights include Dawson's wildly fun "Out Tonight," as well as the rebellious "La Vie Boheme," and "Take Me or Leave Me," a face-off between Menzel and Thoms. The choreography is especially alive with Heredia's "Today 4 U," an outrageous depiction of the assassination of a "yappy dog" which Angel happily carries out in exchange for "A thousand dollar guarantee, tax-free — and a bonus if I trim her tree." "Tango: Maureen" is a great exchange of complaints between Rapp and Thoms, as they recount their issues with the promiscuous Maureen.

Fortunately, "Rent" isn't meant to replace the unbeatable on-stage version. And though perhaps the transition isn't as smooth as it was for "Chicago," it certainly brings so-dubbed Rent-heads and newcomers into the amazing and passionate story that creator Jonathan Larson has brought to audiences.

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