Starring: Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Rosario Dawson, Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Idina Menzel, Tracie Thoms, Taye Diggs
The film adaptation of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical of the same title, this rock opera is the story of a group of bohemians trying to make it for a year in New York. They have to deal with love, loss, AIDS, and how they and the world effect one another in the modern city. REVIEW:
“Team America: World Police” had a scene which spoofed this musical, where it was called LEASE and featured a song called “Everybody Has AIDS”. Fans of the musical RENT were up in arms over this scene, but when you read the full summary of the film, or watch it, you realize how true that spoof really is. Of the 8 lead characters in this film, literally half of them are infected with AIDS!
Christmas Eve, 1989. Mark and Roger are roommates in the East Villiage in New York city. They receive their rent notice (which they can't afford), their heat has been shut off, and to stave off the cold so they don't die of hypothermia, they hold a bonfire in their living room where Mark burns his screenplays and Roger burns his sheet music. Their former roommate Tom Collins comes to visit them, but while waiting for them to let him in, he is chased through the streets and mugged in an alley where he's found by drag queen and street drummer Angel. Angel and Collins immediately discover their common bond: they are both homosexual men with AIDS.
Benny, Mark and Roger and Collin's former roommate and now landlord, has a plan to evict the homeless living in a nearby lot and put up a cyber cafe. His one problem is that Mark's ex-girlfriend, Maureen, is planning to hold a rally against Benny's project. He wants Mark to get her to cancel the rally, and if successful, he'll let Mark and Roger continue to live where they are rent free indefinitely.
Collins introduces Angel to Mark and Roger, and the already couple invites Mark and Roger to an AIDS support meeting (Collins knowing that Roger is struggling with his own battle with the disease). Roger declines the offer, but Mark agrees to attend to film it for a documentary he's working on.
Mark goes to help Maureen set up the sound system for the rally and he's met instead by Joanne- Maureen's new girlfriend. The two dislike each other immediately (ex boyfriend meeting new girlfriend), but end up bonding over their common realization of Maureen's manipulative nature.
Roger meets Mimi, a heroin using stripper. They form a romance, but Roger wants her to stop using drugs because that's how he and his ex girlfriend got AIDS in the first place (of which his ex died from) and he doesn't want to see the same thing happen to Mimi.
Maureen puts on her rally, which ends up getting broken up by a police raid. The gang all get separated, but meet up again later at a restaurant and all bond.
When the group discovers that Benny has seized their possessions, Mark gets a camera job at a local news station with the help of Maureen and Joanne. The money he makes is more than enough to get all their stuff back AND pay the rent (as well as several months in advance) although he doesn't enjoy the job, feeling as if he's “sold out”.
Maureen and Joanne get engaged, but break up over Maureen's constant flirting with other people at their engagement party.
Soon, the entire group combusts and each goes their separate ways.
“RENT” is a phenomenal musical, and in my opinion, this is the best film adaptation of a musical ever created. There have been other musicals to win Oscars (“West Side Story”, “The Sound of Music”, “Chicago”, “The Broadway Melody of 1939”), but sadly “RENT” was never even nominated, which I believe to be an absolute outrage. It is far superior to any other Broadway-musical-turn-film in every way (music, acting, cinematography, direction).
The music in “RENT” is fabulous. It's a musical that everyone can enjoy, even those people who say “I don't like musicals” because they think all musicals are show-tune cheesy productions. This musical is a “rock opera”. It's upbeat, modern, and shows an eclectic variety of songs.
The acting is great, as well it should be. Nearly all members of the cast (except Mimi played by Rosario Dawson and Joanne played by Tracie Thoms) are the original Broadway cast reprising the roles they made great to begin with!
The cinematography is stunning. Its gritty and dark when it needs to be, while cheerful and vibrant at other times. It shows off New York City at its best and worst and turns the city into a character itself.
“RENT” is a great movie all around. If you love musicals, you'll love this film. If you hate musicals, you might be annoyed by this film because it has singing, but you'll appreciate the film itself and possibly find yourself nodding to some of the beats.
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