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Movie Review: Rent

Alternate Title: No Day But Today

Story: 525,600 minutes is a year (Christmas 1989 - Christmas 1990) in the lives of eight earnest, struggling Lower East Siders. I would have added the adjective 'young' to that description 10 years ago when six of them starred in the Broadway production however, they are a little long in the tooth for me to use that word now. Are they too old for their parts? Probably. Did it bother me? Not really because they are so talented and heartfelt they overcome this casting glitch.

It is the Broadway (or original off-Broadway) production play by the late Jonathan Larson (won a Tony and a Pulitzer) brought to the screen by Stephen Chbosky (writer) and director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs Doubtfire and the first two Harry Potter films). It is a take-off on La Boheme with struggling artists fighting against 'the man', gentrification and AIDS.

I would have thought this story would be dated but it just rang bitter sweet to me. The AIDS crisis hit this artist community hard and was everywhere in the mid-90's. It seems like a very long time ago.

I remember the Broadway play (I saw it a long time ago) as being very loud and filled with frenetic energy. The film adaptation seemed more subdued, easier to understand the lyrics and certainly not as loud. This was a plus.

If you like musicals, high energy performances and a nostalgic look back to before September 11th this film is for you.

Acting: Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thoms are the two new additions to the film's original cast. They both gave terrific performances. Adam Pascal as the HIV positive rock star wannabe was the weakest in the cast. Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Angel the drag Queen was beautiful. Anthony Rapp was right on the money for his role as the documentarian film maker. Idina Menzel as the performance artist also had her heart in the right place. Taye Diggs as Benny the sell-out has an underutilized role. And finally there's Jesse L Martin as Tom Collins. He was terrific but I could not get his role on Law & Order out of my mind the whole time. He is too familiar a character for us L & O addicts to overcome. I did think that had Jerry Orbach still been alive the two of them could have done a song and dance routine on L&O since Orbach too, got his start in Broadway musicals.

Predilection: I like films snot mostly in NYC and I was curious how this would transfer to the big screen.

Soundtrack: BIG

Opening Titles: Simple white type superimposed on a black background. Most credits are at the end.

Visual Art: NYC looked gritty.

Theater Audience: A small group of NY fans.

Drift Factor: I didn't really drift. It was more of a wander. I get distracted when films are shot in NYC because I try to see where they are filming and if in fact they get it right. I was nervous about how they would handle the World Trade Center since those towers were very visible from the Lower East Side. Most the the film avoids long panning vistas but there was one night shot taken from Brooklyn of the pre-September 11th skyline. It still hurts.

Tissue Usage: I found myself surprisingly weepy.

Oscar Worthy: Who knows?

Nit Picking: I could nit pick about some unnecessary scenes and some editing that was needed, but I won't.

Big Screen or Rental: I think that RENT should be a big screen only option. For some other Broadway musicals that have been turned into film try renting: The Philadelphia Story, Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, West Side Story, The Music Man, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Oliver, Funny Girl, Fiddler on the Roof, 1776, Cabaret, Grease, Evita and Chicago.

Length: About 15 minutes over the two hour Lobo rule.