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A professional critic's RENT review (SPOILERS & LONG)

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Bdwyguy30
Understudy
joined:3/9/04
Understudy
joined:
3/9/04
This is a review from a real movie critic's take on the film. As reviewed by Jeffrey Wells Rent Renewal
The advance word on Rent (Columbia, 11.23) for the last few months has been that it's going to feel slightly dated (being a late '80s piece about some young AIDS-af- flicted Manhattanites), and Chris Columbus, not the grittiest and most naturalistic of directors, will gloss it up too much, so watch out.
The buzz was wrong. Say it again: the buzz was wrong.
Rosario Dawson, Adam Pascal during "Light My Candle" number in Chris Columbus's film of Jonathan Larson's Rent (Columbia, 11.23)
Call me emotionally impressionable, call me unsophisticated, call me a sap...but I saw Rent last night in Santa Monica, and in its vibrant, open-hearted, selling-the- hell-out-of-each-and-every-song-and-dance-number way, it's a knockout and an ass-whooper and damn near glorious at times.

I didn't just like it...I felt dazzled, amped, alpha-vibed. I got into each and every song, every character and conflict...I settled back and went with it. People were applauding after almost every song, and the film really does give you a "whoa... this is special" feeling.

Somewhere up there (out there, in there...whatever), Jonathan Larson, the guy who created the play but died in January 1996, just before the stage show opened, is breathing easy.

Columbus went with almost the entire original cast, and they're all spot-on. A cer- tain theatricality is inevitable when actors are breaking into song, but everyone plays it down and naturalistic; they don't project in a playing-to-the-balcony way that throws you out of the piece.

Adam Pascal's Roger and Anthony Rapp's Mark are note-perfect. Rosario Daw- son's singing is surprisingly assured and satisfying, in addition to her usual first- rate emoting. Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Tracie Thoms, Taye Diggs...everyone gets a gold star.

Rent is a slicker, punchier, more revved-up movie musical than Milos Forman's Hair, which had some of the same elements (kids in New York, in and out of love, looming tragedy). But it's not that different from the Forman film; it has a similar elan.

I kept saying to myself last night, "What's wrong with this film?....where's the mis- calculation? Where's the gross Chris Columbus saccharine overkill?"...and it just didn't happen to any bothersome degree.

It may not be hip enough for some of my nyah-nyah, know-it-all critic friends. It may not be Alphabet City enough. It may be, for them, too far removed from the vitality of the original off-Broadway, pre-Broadway show...too much of a Holly- wood-style take on something that may have been a bit sweet or cloying, but which worked because of the Lower East Side funkitude balance-out factor.

Critics said the same thing about Robert Wise's West Side Story. That overly Oscar-awarded film brought an overly sanitized, sound-stagey quality to the material, wich furthered the loss of the immediacy and excitement of the original B'way play. The dissers of Wise's film were right. It was too 1961 mainstream.

But Columbus is not Robert Wise. He lived in Manhattan way back when and knew the Lower East Side, he knows the stage show backwards and forwards, he's pruned it down a bit and has made a film that's a lot tighter and brighter and a cleaner "sell."

I saw Rent in '96 with Jett, who was then about eight, and I remember enjoying the energy and a lot of the songs and feeling a general respect for it...but I wasn't floored. For me, the film is a better ride.

I don't want to compare apples and oranges, and I understand that Rent-heads might not agree that it's "better," but the film is a cleaner, more easily processed thing, and it delivers a fuller, riper feeling.

The "La Boheme" number
There's really a lot to be said for being able to hear each and every song lyric. (I digested them only occasionally when I saw the stage version.) And being able to hear each and every voice in the chorus of "Seasons of Love" (and every song after that) provides an amazing high.

Has Columbus made a kicky and colorful c'mon-kids-let's-put-on-a-show musical? Yeah, kind of...but what's wrong with that? And what other way could Columbus have gone? Play down the energy, go grimmer, shoot in on Super 16mm, channel Darren Aronofsky or Larry Clark?

Rent is a big-studio movie musical. As I understand it, the idea is to turn people on, attract the fans of the stage show, sell tickets, etc.

It's not Open City or Paisan or Rocco and his Brothers. It's a revamp of Puccini's "La Boheme" with all those primary emotions, catchy thrash-guitar songs, drama- tic condensings, lovers loving and losing each other, tomorrow belongs to no one so go for it today, etc.

And it's Rent, after all...butter wouldn't melt in its mouth.

I'm sorry to differ with the nyah-nyahs, but Columbus has taken these ingredients and made it all sound quadruple-fantastic (be absolutely certain you see Rent in a theatre with a great sound system) and punched it up and brought out the bells and whistles and made a movie musical that really delivers.

Rent creator Jonathan Larson, composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim sometime around '94 or '95.
You'll be more likely to feel this way if you're a not-very-hip type like myself, or if you're in the same kind of head-space as those 425 satisfied folks who saw it with me at the Aero theatre. And if you're in the opposite camp...it's your call.

Rent is set in 1989 -- the stage show was written between 1988 and '90. The show is basically about the effect that being close to death has upon your basic life atti- tudes. We all know the riff about "the clarity of mind experienced by a man stand- ing on the gallows is wonderful," etc. That's all that's being said here, and that's obviously a theme that will never lose relevance.

The young-gay-guys-and-urban-drug-users-dropping-like-flies-from-AIDS element isn't the same today as it was in the early days of the first Bush administration , obviously (and thank fortune)...but this doesn't date the film -- it just places it in a certain cultural context, and that's nothing to get over.

I know it when something is working. Call it subjective, but I felt it last night and it wasn't just me.

A guy who loved the off-Broadway stage version said he's heard it doesn't work because the actors seem too old. "They're all supposed to be in their early 20s ...the actors all look like they're 28 or 30," he told me this morning. That's bull- ****...they're young-enough looking. It's a non-issue.

There are three love relationships in Rent, and only one of them (Adam and Rosa- rio's) is hetero. We're really in a gay-friendly season these days, and there's no watching Rent and missing the notion that we're all God's children. The Mel Gibson contingent can go stuff it.

The energy and punch of this show are there all the way through, and the emotion- al specifics of each and every character and situation are clearer and more vivid than they appeared to me when I saw the stage show...whoops, repeating myself.

There will be more to say about Rent in a week or two. Those crab-heads really need to be slapped around.



Updated On: 11/10/05 at 01:28 PM
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Pippin
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There are three love relationships in Rent, and only one of them (Adam and Rosa- rio's) is hetero. We're really in a gay-friendly season these days, and there's no watching Rent and missing the notion that we're all God's children. The Mel Gibson contingent can go stuff it.


sounds wonderful. maybe this paragraph will show a certain mr. Art2 that chris columbus didn't put rent through the- how did he put it- the anti-gay shredder.

I am excited for this film after this review, becuase I have a lot of the same hesitations he had about Columbus, as many of us did. but this makes me worry a little bit less about it.
"I'm an American, Damnit!!! And if it's three things I don't believe in, it's quitting and math."
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LariTheLoud
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"Oh, good. After all, I can rub my stomach and pat my head at the same time, and I can do it with my eyes closed while whistling 'The Entertainer.' That's rhythm for you." ~ Snaps, proving that White Boys CAN have rhythm
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joined:12/31/69
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A PROFESSIONAL CRITIC? That's an oxymoron and near laughable, to be honest. Being paid (or not being paid) is not a great measure of anyone's ability to review films. Most film critic's only want to see their name in a movie add. Some only review movies they know they will like so they can see their quote in print. There's even the famous Paul Wunder (WBAI radio or something similar) who ONLY wrote positive things about films and the studios knew it and sought him out.

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LeaGirl
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I guess "professional" critics aren't pro unless they write negative reviews.

What I think they MEANT is that this was written by someone who reviews movies for a living, not one of us on the board (not like either one is more valid)
Now what would you say if today I started over? Without a thing but this taped together four leaf clover And I'll pretend like everything is already alright And I'll run toward the sun till the castle's out of sight
Broadway Star
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That's not what I meant at all....the whole notion of 'professional critic' kills me...so few really are qualified, most are wildly inconsistant and it's really only an opinion anyways.

Classics include:

Roger Ebert gave "Jersey Girl" a good review and it's a widely panned movie.


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