Rating – 5/10
Yep, this is happening!
RENT is a 2005 adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name, directed by Chris Columbus.
Now, before I dive headfirst into this review, I should add a brief disclaimer that this is not a genre that I have even a passing knowledge of. I am one of those guys who just doesn’t get musicals, so it is entirely possible and fairly likely that many of my criticisms will apply not only to this movie, but the genre as a whole.
The film follows a group of bohemians living in New York in the end of the eighties/start of the nineties, as they struggle with money, their love lives, HIV, and drugs.
The film focusses predominantly on two roommates named Rodger and Mark. Rodger is a musician whose music we never really hear despite this being a musical (though, given his resemblance to Jon Bon Jovi – I’m not complaining), and Mark is a documentary filmmaker.
We also follow university lecturer (I think – they keep talking about a university job throughout the film) Collins and his drag queen boyfriend, Angel, who is suffering with HIV.
Then there’s Mark’s performance artist ex-girlfriend Maurine, and her current girlfriend Joanne who has doubts about Maurine’s commitment to their relationship.
The film’s biggest issue is that it tries to bring all these characters’ stories to centre stage, which (along with the extended musical numbers) drags out the pacing, and leaves very little room for genuine character development.
The only believable characters in the movie are Angel and Collins, who do genuinely feel like a real couple dealing with the knowledge one of them is dying – right at the start of this fresh relationship.
The film dedicates a lot of its runtime to Rodger’s love/hate relationship with a stripper named Mimi. We see that he wants to accept that he loves her but can’t, as she is a junkie and his previous girlfriend died from contracting HIV via dirty needles. However, Mimi never really gets any character development beyond just being a junkie.
Maurine is painted as being a selfish commitment-phobe, who can’t be in a room with another human for more than a few seconds being without flirting with them – and yet, towards the end, the film seems to take the attitude that her and Joanne’s relationship is a two-way street despite us being given no reason to side with Maureen.
Each of these storylines could have worked as individual films but, jammed together into one narrative, they feel unfinished and messy.
Another example of this is, at the beginning, we are introduced to Mark and Rodger’s landlord (whose name I can’t be bothered to look up as he’s barely a character) who offers to overlook the previous year’s unpaid rent, if they stop Maureen from protesting. They refuse, and he makes them homeless. Not long after that, he lets them move back in.
This overcrowding of storylines also lead me to forget what was going on until each storyline was hastily tied up, often during extended musical numbers.
There were three separate occasions where I thought the movie was coming to an end only for it to keep plodding along.
Aaand then there’s the actual ending! Ooh boy! I won’t say it outright but… okay, do you remember Hellboy? Or the first two Matrix films? Power of love heals all- that lark. I… that! That happens. My eyes rolled so far into my head that I could see my brain!
Other than that, there were elements I enjoyed. The production design was interesting, and the dance sequences were all very well shot. I also didn’t hate the music. Wouldn’t play it while I do the washing up, but I wouldn’t switch it off if someone else put it on (mostly because that’s rude and you should really ask before switching off another person’s music).
While I did feel its length at times, and the storylines were draining, I wouldn’t say I was ever completely bored while watching it.
It also handled the subject of terminal illness very well and, while other parts of the film felt hamfisted, this was one element that felt completely sincere.
So, would I recommend this film? Honestly, I’m not sure I need to. This is a movie that has its own audience, which I am not a part of. This audience will be well aware of the inherent flaws that you just sort of overlook while watching this type of film. I do fully understand that, as I am a fan of exploitation and horror movies – which are about as flawed as film gets.
I doubt that there’s anything I have said about the story and its focus that would really bother fans of either musicals or dramas with ensemble casts.
So in summary, ignore everything I said and see this movie if it sounds like it would appeal to you. Bet your glad you read all this, aren’t ya?