Film Review: Rent

Though I had never seen the Broadway show nor heard the entire soundtrack, I was drawn to see the film version of Rent. I had sung “Seasons of Love” with my high school chorus and got to sing Tom’s solo part in the bridge. When I studied abroad in college I was given a compilation tape of music that spoke of new beginnings and celebrating life. One of the first songs was, you guessed it, “Seasons of Love.”

The film version of Rent is a moving story of eight people making their way through a year spent in poverty-stricken New York City while battling with a lack of money, the threat of eviction, AIDS, and the desire to find oneself in the midst of such hardships. Throughout the musical, the bricolage of voices rise with triumphant swells singing the praises of life, love and the precious nature of each and every day. Uncharacteristic of most musicals, Rent has a sound all its own. Piano and electric guitar take the place of a full orchestra or operatic melodies. It has a grittier, more true-to-life feel to it. The grungy backdrop of NYC plays it’s own role in the story, illustrating the vulnerability of living in uncertain times. Visually speaking – since I always notice camera angles, being a cameraman myself – I enjoyed the almost constant motion of the camera around and up and over the action, not only providing energy to the scene but also capturing the essence of the story which is to take in as much of life as you can because there is “no day but today.”

Building off of Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer and Tony award-winning book and musical, director Chris Columbus offers a wonderful portrayal of such a powerful story. Bringing back most of the original Broadway cast – including, to my surprise, Anthony Rapp from films such as A Beautiful Mind, Twister, and School Ties – along with notable performers Rosario Dawson and Taye Diggs rounding out this family of friends allowed the musical genius of the original to remain intact to make this film as strong as it could ever be.

Unless you are entirely anti-musical, or even if you are, Rent is an excellent film. Go see it!

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