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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 6.12%
Average: 12.24%
Pretty Bad: 25.51%
Total Crap: 18.37%

7 reviews, 56 user ratings

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by Collin Souter

"I should tell you, I should tell you this movie doesn't work"
2 stars

I saw “Rent” performed live at the Shubert Theater here in Chicago about seven years ago and found it to be a thoroughly entertaining—of a bit overlong—low-key extravaganza. Less a story and more of a series of operatic, jovial and tender songs about love, despair and longing, Jonathan Larson’s musical is—above everything else—a celebration of life in the face of death, eviction or starving for your art. On stage, it mostly works, even if it tends to ware out its welcome in many spots. As a film, the material simply doesn’t have a chance and too often the movie comes off like a sequel to the ever-annoying “Fame,” where the kids never moved out of New York or learned anything from Debbie Allen.

Rent could have at least been an interesting film, or even an interesting failure. With Chris Columbus at the helm, the movie comes off flaccid, lifeless and endless. Like last year’s equally bloated Phantom of the Opera, it doesn’t stand a chance at winning over any cynics or new fans. I walked into the movie wanting to like it, hoping the energy of the stage production would translate well for the big screen, but from the get-go, the movie shows its true anti-artistic colors: Six of the main characters stand on stage and Columbus films them from a few angles. It rarely gets more exciting than that.

Columbus is not a bad director when it comes to filming simple screenplays that don’t require much directorial finesse. It’s certainly no crime for a director to have a style that’s non-existent. I just know that when you adapt a musical that celebrates a bohemian lifestyle, the last person you should hire for the job would be the director of the first two Home Alone movies and StepMom. Columbus is a director who plays things too safe and Rent calls for someone who has had experience directing for the stage, someone who has a distinct visual style and someone who takes chances.

But as I said, Rent simply doesn’t work as a movie and probably never would. The structure doesn’t lend itself to being a smooth and briskly paced two-plus hour movie. The play itself has little dialogue that isn’t sung and the movie lacks the necessary elements to immerse us into the world of Movie Musicals where we can take the new set of narrative rules seriously. I have no problem with characters bursting out into song, but too often Columbus can’t pull it off. Sometimes, I felt as though I was watching a bad Bon Jovi or Billy Squire video.

As a story, Rent has always been a mess. It takes place in New York in 1989 and centers on too many main characters, each of whom have at least one fun song and one sad one. Mark (Anthony Rapp) and Roger (Adam Pascal) live in a decrepit apartment where they are on the verge of being evicted. Mark makes movies (with the only Bolex camera in the world that records sound and doesn’t need camera tape) and Roger records songs, but has yet to write one he’s happy with. Their friend Tom Collins (Jesse L. Martin) has just met up with an HIV-positive drag queen named Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia), who attends support groups.

Mark’s ex-girlfriend Maureen (Idina Menzel) has just dumped him for another woman, Joanne (Tracie Thoms of TV’s Wonderfalls). Maureen is a performance artist who stages a performance protest against a commercial development headed by Mark’s landlord, Benny (Taye Diggs). Meanwhile, John has just reluctantly started a relationship with an exotic dancer and heroin addict named Mimi (Rosario Dawson).

With so many characters and far too many songs, Rent lacks a truly cohesive dramatic arch to justify its length. The movie ends at least three times, each ending about a half hour apart. The only musical moment in the movie that truly works is “Tango: Maureen,” in which Mark meets his ex-girlfriend’s new partner, Joanne, for the first time. However, why Mark chooses to actually hang around his ex and her new partner remains a mystery to me. Ask any dumped guy if he wants to see his ex lusting all over a new woman (or man for that matter), not to mention propose marriage to her. If I saw any of that, you’d have to put me on suicide watch.

But the idea of turning Rent into a movie should have been killed off anyway. If nothing else, the movie benefits from some of the show’s wonderful songs and the talented cast that performs them, most of whom are too old to be playing these parts. Unfortunately, the show’s lesser songs (“Light My Candle,” for instance) become lesser still and the musical numbers get little help from the camera and editing department, giving the performances a stilted and unimaginative presentation.

I saw this movie a couple weeks before it came out. We were allowed to bring a guest to the screening. I sent an email out to about 40 of my theater friends here in Chicago. None of them were interested. When I mentioned in conversation that I had seen Rent, nobody demanded to know how it was. Like last year’s Phantom of the Opera, the fans will likely go opening weekend while others stay away. I try not to look at the success of Best Picture winner Chicago as a fluke, just the result of good storytelling, a cracker-jack script and a director who knows how to film a lavish and exciting musical number. Rent will likely succeed in having an endless amount of critics declaring “It’s 525,600 minutes long!”

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originally posted: 11/23/05 16:58:15
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User Comments

4/03/14 Toni Let's play How Many Times Can Rent Make You Cringe. I've lost count 1 stars
9/19/13 Annie G I feel like I saw a different film than the reviewer - not too bad. 3 stars
11/19/12 Meredith B Beautiful version of the Broadway play! 5 stars
11/23/09 Jeff Wilder Good overall. But duplicates play rather than translates it into a cinematic form. 3 stars
11/19/08 Rachel wtf is with you haters? this movie is amazing, I cried at the funeral! 5 stars
4/28/08 Not too bad 1/2 of people who loved the movie here launched ad-hominem attacks on those who didn't. 3 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann This musical bites.Pure & simple.It's like an opera written by Beyonce.Utter poo! 1 stars
6/15/07 Danielle Ophelia Is it relevant? Yes. Is it worth your time? Probably not. 2 stars
4/18/07 David Pollastrini it was better on stage 3 stars
4/13/07 Anikka If you aren't mature and open enough to understand this movie don't watch it. It's amazing. 5 stars
4/02/07 marg Worst. Film. Wver. 1 stars
2/26/07 Loryn This is so off base it don't even merit a comment... 5 stars
2/21/07 johnnyfog Really clumsy in the beginning, but the material shines through enough to be alright 4 stars
2/13/07 Jenny RENT is amazing. You must be insane or so closed minded to have it not inspire you. 5 stars
12/26/06 johnnyfog I may be biased but Rosario's a goddess. Well she IS! 5 stars
11/28/06 venessa i think it was a nice play coverin a wide range of social issues.i didnt un/stand some part 5 stars
11/04/06 Reena Saw the play, it kicked ass, the movie... not so much, but still good. 4 stars
11/03/06 Pam My favorite movie! I dont know how people can hate it! 5 stars
10/17/06 ali absolutely amazing!! story line is heartfelt and moving! 5 stars
10/03/06 amityjo Saw the play. Hated it. Saw the movie. Hated it more. 1 stars
8/22/06 Alicia amazing, i absolutely loved it! 5 stars
7/30/06 Parker L this reviewer is a completely soulless jerk. this movie is moving as the show 5 stars
7/24/06 Constantine Mantelo Excruciating!!! (And that comes from someone who loves musicals) 1 stars
7/04/06 Evil Wolfie A good message, but unbearably bad music and lyrics. 2 stars
5/23/06 Sophia D. It was one of the BEST movies i EVER saw. I absolutely loved it and i love to sing to it. 5 stars
5/21/06 Angelluver People who don't like RENT are either too stupid or too miserable to enjoy it. 5 stars
5/08/06 Diane Perkins Loved this movie so much. Every actors performance flawless 5 stars
4/01/06 mela the best movie-musical i've seen since chicago 5 stars
3/24/06 Epi I love rent, and this loser critic doesn't know anything... 5 stars
2/20/06 Perry Mason The songs are just laughably bad. Almost as bad as an Andrew Lloyd Webber production. 1 stars
1/30/06 Andrew the film was excellent 5 stars
1/18/06 al thought the cast was great,dont care how old they are 4 stars
1/17/06 ella as a recovering "renthead", this movie was a terrible dissapointment 2 stars
1/04/06 Piz Jumps around a lot but for a musical-turned-movie it wasn't horrible. 3 stars
12/18/05 kasey I went to see it twice, I loved it so much! Must go with an open mind to enjoy it. 5 stars
12/12/05 Bill Stunning ensemble performances; those who don't get it are missing a gene from the pool 5 stars
12/09/05 Amy A whole lot of music, movement, dance, drama and angst in this movie. I'd see it again! 5 stars
12/05/05 Eric His name is Mark not Matt. It's like you didnt even pay attention. 5 stars
12/04/05 BrianWilly Heartfelt and beautiful 5 stars
12/04/05 Erica You must be open minded to enjoy this show!! Amazing and breathtaking!!! Loved it! 5 stars
12/04/05 Kelly Absolutely stunning! Worth a second see! 5 stars
12/02/05 John Ford Other than the opening number, this movie really blows. It's hard to follow the characters 1 stars
11/30/05 joey squids stupidest movie i ever saw....i walked out after an hour 1 stars
11/30/05 John Linton Roberson Everything I hated about my early twenties combined in one film. Oh joy. 1 stars
11/29/05 Zari Lopez I think the criticisms for the musical are unwarranted. The movie, acceptable. 4 stars
11/29/05 Jim Dude, you bust the film but get the characters wrong....MARK, not MATT 4 stars
11/28/05 Governor11201 Fame! + AIDS = CRAP 1 stars
11/28/05 Grandma Mil The best: Tango Maureen.Like La Boheme? You've got to be kidding! 2 stars
11/28/05 G Far better than any Chris Columbus film has a right to be. 4 stars
11/26/05 avoidance It's true, EVERYONE in New York has AIDS. 2 stars
11/26/05 hoosierpeach Moving, delightful, STILL Relevant Still TRUE 5 stars
11/26/05 Will Goody Juvenile and Dated 1 stars
11/25/05 baseball-nut Save your money! 2 stars
11/25/05 Jon Leonoudakis A hollow, soul-less take that lacks the grit and heart of the musical. 3 stars
11/24/05 hibbyX Rosario Dawson is ugly. There, I said it. 1 stars
11/24/05 kokoro its XANADU for grad students 2 stars
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  23-Nov-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 21-Feb-2006



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