Low Rent

23 11 2005

RentIf you’re interested in seeing everything that could possibly go wrong with a filmed musical you must run out right away to see RENT (since it might not be around by next week). This is the film based on the hit Off-Broadway and then Broadway musical about a group of twenty-somethings who live amidst poverty, AIDS, squalor, and depression in New York City’s Lower East Side in the 80s.

Instead, what we’ve got is a musical about a group of thirty-near-forty-somethings who live amidst very well designed lofts, AIDS, strategically placed trash, and upbeat rhyming couplets in the a set that resembles something that someone who never lived in New York City’s Lower East Side in the 80s would dream of.

In short, it’s taken a very Broadway-ish musical and made it even more sanitized and completely Hollywood. Every edgy idea has had its edges sanded down by MRS. DOUBTFIRE director Chris Columbus.

Now, I was a fan of the original play even though its lyrics tended to veer way too close to the “moon/June” style for my taste. It’s always tough when people sing out their emotions; in the play you had to buy into the operatic theatricality of it all. Once you did, the energy came through.

Columbus, on the other hand, asks us only to buy into the fact that this was once a popular musical. His idea of choeography is, in most cases, to have people jump onto and off of tables, stages, chairs or fire escapes, while the camera swoops over and around them. There is no there there, and the characters (most of whom are way too old to be playing the starving artists they are intended to be) never rise above the artificial.

When I worked on HAIR, Milos Forman was incredibly concerned with how, in modern films, you can get the audience to accept the transition from dialogue into song — how you get the audience to believe that a character will burst into song. THough he wasn’t always completely successful, he worked very hard on those transitions to help the audience through it. Columbus not only doesn’t do that, but it seems like he’s not concerned with it in the least. How will people, in 2005, buy characters bursting into song in the middle of support group, or a nicely turned out loft kitchen? Well, according to him, all you need to do is start the music vamping.

Sorry Chris, it just doesn’t hold up. We aren’t living in 1950, and Gene Kelly didn’t do the choreography for this complete mess of a film.

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UPDATE
The movie opened on 11/23 and it got lots of good reviews from what I can see. Go figure!!
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