Publicity Stills of "Rent"
(Courtesy from Columbia TriStar.)

Genre: Musical Drama
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Rosario Dawson, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, Tracie Thoms
RunTime: 2 hrs 15 mins
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Rating: M18 (Mature Theme)

Opening Day: 30 March 2006 (Exclusive Showcase at The Cathay Cineplex)


Based on the musical by Jonathan Larson, which was inspired by Puccini’s “La Boheme”, the revolutionary rock opera, RENT tells the story of a group of bohemians struggling to live and pay their rent against the gritty background of New York’s East Village. “Measuring their lives in love”, these starving artists strive for success and acceptance while enduring the obstacles of poverty, illness and the AIDS epidemic.

One of the longest running shows on Broadway, Rent was the winner of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Obie Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, four Tony Awards and three Drama Desk awards.

Movie Review:

Movie musicals rarely fare very well as opposed to its original stage version. Two such reasons are that despite the silver screen translation provides more room for a visual spectacle; it is often felt that the essence of a stage musical is lost in the transition. An example would be Joel Schumacher’s interpretation of the much lauded, The Phantom of the Opera, which turned out to be, campy. The other reason is attributed to a general audience, which is unable to appreciate a movie musical. However, the likes of The Sound of Music and West Side Story remain classics in this day and age.

“Viva La Vie Boheme!” goes the war cry of struggling “artistes” in Tent City, New York, who are well, struggling to pay their rent. RENT happens over the span of a year, from one Christmas Eve to the other. In the group of friends, relationships, both straight and not, form and break amidst having to worry about their rent and the AIDS epidemic. RENT is also a representation of underachievers who have dreams but not having the means of achieving them.

Roger and Mark, struggling rock star and filmmaker respectively are being kicked out of their apartment by their old friend Benny, who is now collecting their rent. Another old friend of theirs, Collins, returns home, to find himself in a scuffle but it results in him meeting the very friendly Angel. Mark finds himself in a fix when his girlfriend, Maureen leaves him for another girl, Joanne. Meanwhile, Roger is being seduced by his neighbour, Mimi, a dancer from a club who used to date Benny.

Musical fans are guaranteed that RENT, will, literally, be music to their ears. With the exception of Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thomas, the cast is made up of the original cast of the stage musical that has been running for nine years. As such, the singing is top notch and pretty memorable voices. As opposed to famed musicals by the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim, the songs in RENT are at best, good. There are gems like “Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme” which are addictive but several, are unfortunately, forgettable.

While the film clocks in at more than two hours, it feels pretty choppy. As a result of this, things happen too quickly sometimes and this disconnects the audience from the characters when the situations they are placed in are ones that anyone could easily identify with. While the city of New York served as a beautiful backdrop and made the film more appealing, RENT, was essentially written as a stage musical and it would be best for it to continue doing so.

Movie Rating:

(Only for those who have a taste for musicals and would not mind seeing bohemian yuppies singing away on film!)

Review by Mohamad Shaifulbahri

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