This rock opera tells the story of one year in the life of a group of bohemians struggling in modern day East Village New York. The story centers around Mark and Roger, two roommates. While a former tragedy has made Roger numb to life, Mark tries to capture it through his attempts to make a film. In the year that follows, the group deals with love, loss, AIDS, and modern day life in one truly powerful story.
User Reviews: It’s obvious this musical has an incredible fan base. That became evident when we saw the movie version the other day. There were a lot of young people in groups that came to see what director Chris Columbus did to the musical that is still running on Broadway after nine years. The screen adaptation is by Steve Chbosky.
"Rent", written and composed by Jonathan Larson, started as a small musical at the NY Theater Workshop and then was transferred to the Nederlander theater where it’s still playing. The film has six of the original cast members in it, the exception being Freddie Walker who is substituted by Tracie Thoms and Daphne Rubin-Vega who was the original Mimi, a role that went to Rosario Dawson in the film.
This movie will definitely resonate with a younger audience. The music is targeted to them. This is a pop-rock opera and make no mistake about it. Don’t go thinking you are going to find anything resembling Puccini’s "La Boheme". The musical is extremely loosely based on the characters from the opera, but that’s where all the comparison ends. The people one sees in the musical are more real because the pain of what is going on in their lives is clearly evident. The AIDS epidemic affects a few of the characters; there are gays and lesbians just being themselves without anyone judging what they do. At the bottom of it all is every day survival in that environment.
What "Rent" is, it’s a celebration of the life on that side of New York during the 80’s when anarchists populated the lower east side of Manhattan squatting in abandoned buildings and living precariously at the edge of a society that didn’t want them around. The young people that were attracted to the area brought with them a new way of living without prejudice.
Alas, everything comes to an end. In fact, just a tour of the area today will show the gentrification that is taking place after Mayor Giuliani and his ilk got these bohemians evicted in order to give way to condominiums and new luxury dwellings where the people the movie celebrate will have no chance to live in them at all. This seems to be the problem when artists create spaces that later on are taken over by the establishment, only to displace the creators, as has happened in Soho, Dumbo, and will not be too far behind in displacing the Williamsburg’s artistic settlers.
As a film, "Rent", has great moments. Even though one has heard the songs many times, there is still a fresh take on them by the talented cast that sing them. Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Wilson Jermaine-Heredia, Jesse Martin, Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel, Tracie Thoms and Rosario Dawson work as an ensemble under the direction of Mr. Columbus, who would have appeared as an unlikely candidate for directing the film, but who brings the best from his talented cast.
By the way, "Rent" was filmed in the west coast, so don’t go looking for any authentic East Village locations, since most of what one sees was probably shot in a studio. The Horseshoe bar is shown on the outside, and a scene of Tompkins Square Park, but the rest is fake.