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HALL OF FAMEon November 26, 2005
I saw the movie in a beautiful theater in downtown San Francisco on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and was surprised to find so few people in the movie theater--maybe 75 of us, and the theater could have fit 500. I wonder if some of the lukewarm reviews haven't influenced people's decisions to go to RENT. Hope not, for I'm here to tell you, this movie is dynamite and IMHO much, much better than the play. For one thing, in the movie you can hear every word, even with the increased rock instrumentation, for hundreds of sound experts have worked their magic and made sure that even people underwater could hear every single syllable; whereas on stage, it depended from night to night what percentage of the lyrics were going to be coming across the temperamental sound system of the Nederlander (NYC).

I did miss Daphne Rubin-Vega who was incomparably sexy and chilling as Mimi, but I never believed her being in love, and Rosario Dawson looked like she was just 'playing' at being bad and underneath she was ready to fall in love as soon as she saw Roger through the window. Her scenes of addiction are captured in the movie effectively, in a rpaid montage that might disconcert some rentheads but will, I think, be easily understood by those new to the show.

Yes, some of the actors looked older than 20 somethings. But we forget that most of those who died of AIDS in the 1989-90 period were actually in their 30s. What's the big deal? To me, Angel's fate is all the more sad because he seemed to be healthy for so long and then, all of a sudden, well, any more would bring me into spoiler territory.

Idina Menzel is not as over the top as she is on stage, but there's still plenty of fire power there, and she's bigger than anything in the movies since the heyday of Betty Hutton! She looks remarkably beautiful and she doesn't miss a trick; and just when you think she'll overshadow Tracie Thoms as her attorney girlfriend, Joanne, the latter pulls off some memorable comic business and signals her disappointment and regret with her expressive brown eyes. Anthony Rapp is charming as Mark Cohen, he comes off as a tiny terror, I wonder how tall he is, the constant scenes of him snarking down the streets with his fists clenched in anger at his sides, but no one else around to reveal his true proportions--the old Alan Ladd trick. And Adam Pascal is suave and tormented in equal measures as Roger. His eyelashes are so long I expected them to have a special spotlights in the credits, but no.

I have to disagree with the posters who claim that Larson wrote all the best numbers for the men in the cast. Maybe that's personal pleading, but I find the best songs pretty much divided right down the middle. Mimi's "Out Tonight" isn't as exciting as on stage, but it is much more compellingly staged, as Rosario Dawson steps out of the Cat Scratch Club after her shift only to launch into the second verse, and seems to scale the wall of the loft to get to Roger like Catwoman in the third. ("I'll let you make me . . .") "Light My Candle" suffers a little without Daphne Rubin-Vega in it, and Adam Pascal acts as though he knows he's cheating on her with Rosario Dawson. Afterwards he gets his balls back. The ensemble singing of "Will I?" and "Another Day" are perfectly staged and rehearsed, and it's there that I started to lose it. I guess I must have spent the last seventy minutes of the movie in a continual rain of tears. By the end I had to sit through all the credits in a vain attempt to gather composure. The faces of those whom I lost to AIDS flashed before my eyes. Not all of them, but some of them. I did resolve to go out and try to practice love on a grand scale. They got me this time. "No other path, no other way, give in to love or live in fear."

These sentiments are vapid and, in the daylight, seem a little silly, but the beauty and power of the movie is to convince you of their truth. Good work all around. I hope the movie's an enormous success.
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on December 2, 2005
I was born to love "Rent." Having grown up listening to my mother's record of "La Boheme" playing as she did her housework, I anxiously anticipated seeing the Broadway production when I was in New York in 1999. Although, it was superb, the movie version was so much more enjoyable to me, mainly because the words to the beautiful songs were clear and much more understandable. I realize Broadway is a one-shot deal and a movie can have countless takes on a scene, so I'm not putting down the play I loved in any way, just saying the movie was an easier and more enjoyable viewing experience.

From the spectacular opening scene where the full cast sings the beautiful "Seasons of Love," the stage is set for a glorious celebration of life, living it to the fullest, and enjoying every moment. Yes, there is heartbreak on the screen and many moist eyes in the theater, but this is mainly a joyful story of friendship, love, and reaching out to your fellow man.

The acting is superb, lovingly done by actors who obviously relate to their roles in a profound way. Wilson Jermaine excels as Angel, especially in the show-stopping "Today 4 U." Adam Pascal and Rosario Dawson are believable as the romantic leads and Jesse L. Martin will astound his "Law and Order" fans with his rich singing voice and dancing ability. All the cast is marvelous, the show is electric with its high-energy singing and dancing, and overall, the best movie I have seen in a long, long time. I will definitely get the DVD the day it is available.
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on June 19, 2006
The reviewer who has it dead-on right in these pages is the one who calls out the fact that Jonathan Larson conceived 'Rent' as more opera (using 'La Boheme' as inspiration), not a musical. And what that means is the the connecting dialogue is sung in stage-voice, not chatted as dialogue. So, to see Jesse L. Martin forced to speak dialogue like "I rewired the ATM at the Food Emporium" when you know it's killing him not to sing it and it's equally killing every Rent fan to hear him constrained to simply mouthing the words...well, it's a major flaw because it deals major blows to the flow and energy of Larson's work.

Other concerns:

* The first-half of the play is re-staged pretty much shot-by-shot. Then, bizarrely (given the fidelity in the first half), the second half veers wildly from the original. Director Columbus wastes too much time staging "Take Me or Leave Me" in a way not intended. Fun, no doubt, but the additional 5 - 10 minutes he tacks on here could have been used to keep the deleted scenes intact.

* The deleted scenes aren't trvial matters - 'Rent' is a hard story to follow for the unitiated. Each one of those scenes could have helped explain the the storyline.

* Surely one of the reasons to prop up "Take Me or Leave Me" was to get more Idina Menzel in there. [Menzel (the original Elephaba in "Wicked" and the original Maureen here) has ascended to Broadway royalty, so who can blame Columbus?] But, if so, why leave out 'Happy New Year?' which features a goodly amount of Maureen?

* The deleted scenes end up de-emphasizing Anthony Rapp's Mark, which is unfortunate because he's the voice and connective thread in the play. Leaving out his '3D IMAX of my mind...that's poetic...that's pathetic' number is a major ommission, both to Rapp as an actor and to anyone trying to follow the movie - this is the key piece that puts things into perspective for the viewer time-wise. Why else would Larson strain to put lines in Rapp's monologue like "Christmas...Christmas Eve last year" He's framing the scenes for us.

This would be a three-star review, but I'll go for four because of the redeeming nature of the nice documentary about the Larson family - this is very powerful stuff. It's obvious the family is still hurting deeply 10 years after their loss.
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on January 19, 2006
This movie is incredible, no doubt about it. From Taye Diggs to Rosario Dawson to Anthony Rapp to Idina Menzel, phenominal talent! I think though there is ONE performance that is worthy of at LEAST an Academy Award NOMINATION and that's Jesse L. Martin. Martin offers most of the laughs from the movie as well as makes the audience cry unlike any other performance this year. Martin's performance is exceptional and adds to the excellence of this incredible movie musical.
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on February 19, 2006
Rent will forever be a legend of musical theatre. Jonathan Larson's intimate and incredibly personal musical went on to win rave reviews, phenominal success, several Tony Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Larson never got to see the success of his baby, however, as he died of an undiagnosed aeortic aneurism the night of the final dress rehearsal. Would Rent have earned the success it did had the tragedy of Larson's death not thrust the musical into the headlines? Would Larson have approved of the move from a small Off-Broadway theatre to a full-blown Broadway production? What would Larson have done had he been granted a lengthy career? We can never know, but he has left a legacy that even the most wide-eyed dreamer couldn't imagine.

This film has been sputtering around Hollywood for nearly a decade, with directors from Spike Lee to Joel Schumacher attached to direct at various times. Thankfully, Mirimax couldn't agree on how to approach the project, which catapulted no less than four directors from behind the camera, leaving room for the vastly underappreciated Chris Columbus to make his first truly great film. His vision for Rent was one that embraces the show's theatrical roots as opposed to masking them, as in 2002's Chicago. He utilizes no tricks to bring the musical numbers inside the characters' heads, and yet his film manages to be the best movie musical in decades, and yes, that is including the aforementioned razzle dazzle Catherine Zeta-Jones vehicle.

The story itself is rather insignificant. It follows the basic outline of Puccini's classic opera, La Boheme, updated to include drug abuse, AIDS, homosexuality, drag queens, and most importantly rock music. We follow the lives of a group of eight bohemians living in New York City as they celebrate love and life over the course of a year. They encounter new friends, old enemies, and yes, even death, and yet the film never preaches is message of "No day but today."

One of this film's greatest strengths is its cast. With six of the original eight principle actors from the Broadway production, there is a sense of family that is integral to the believability of the drug- and disease-filled story. Of those six, Anthony Rapp as film-maker Mark and Jesse L. Martin as teacher Collins fare the best. Rapp instills Mark with an over-the-top energy that embues his character with a genuinely likable quality, while Martin is so charmingly joyful one can't help but adore the character.

Both newbies give extraordinarily strong performances, particularly Rosario Dawson as the drug-addicted, AIDS-inflicted stripper Mimi. For a character that is often played frustratingly large, Dawson brings to Mimi a sweet vulnerability that serves both story and character. It is unfortunate that the actor who shares the most scenes with Dawson, Adam Pascal, appears so uncomfortable with the medium that Roger, "the bittersweet, evocative" songwriter, is both wooden and unrelatable. It's a shame, really, as the Mimi/Roger relationship is at the center of the story. Tracie Thoms, the other newcomer, is easily the best singer in the cast.

The true heart of the film, however, lies in the character of Angel, a lovable drag queen who is also inflicted with AIDS. As played by Wilson Jermaine Heredia, the character is immediately likably familiar. While Heredia plays the character just a tad too flamboyant and stereotypical, that is what Larson wrote for the character. Angel is the reason this story works. He is at once recognizable as a real person, and while he is not actually based on any one person, audiences can see a bit of him in everyone.

The cinematography is absolutely stunning. It compliments both the somber and lively musical numbers without making the film feel glossy. "Tango: Maureen" in particular is a fantastic scene, ironically enough being the only scene to take place in a fantasy. The dance itself is electric and powerful, and a perfect introduction to the flighty character Maureen, played by Tony-winner Idina Menzel. Also rousing is "La Vie Boheme," the most celebratory song in the film. There is more energy present in this one scene than appeared in the entire runtime of last year's Phantom of the Opera.

As for the Extras, the DVD is both sparse and rewarding all at once. The commentary with Columbus, Rapp, and Pascal, the sole feature on the first disk, offers little insight into the making of the film, but is interesting enough to warrent a listen. Weirdly enough, though, the language on the commentary is censored with bleeps, something I have never seen before. Disk two is fairly sparse as well, but it contains a 2 hour-long documentary that follows Rent from Jonathan Larson's childhhod straight through to the film. This is one of the best making-of documentaries ever offered as a DVD extra, and it was clearly made with love and respect for the man that brought Rent into being. I found myself weeping when Larson's death was finally mentioned, over an hour into the doc. One would have to have a heart made out of stone not to be moved by Larson's story. Also noteworthy on the second disk are several deleted scenes and musical numbers. The dialgue sequences were clearly deleted for a reason, as they neither advance nor improve the story, but the two songs, "Halloween" and "Goodbye, Love" add much depth and emotion to the final act of the film. These songs are a wonderful addition to the DVD, but Columbus was right in cutting them, much to the disappointment of "RentHeads" everywhere.
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on January 12, 2006
I'm a Renthead from way back - I was fortunate enough to see the original cast on Broadway, and have been a huge fan of the show ever since. And I was so excited for this movie I could hardly stand it.

So I was a little disappointed that I didn't love it instantly. I do like it a lot, and I suspect that it will grow on me even more with subsequent viewings. Therefore, I'll own the DVD.

The good news for other Rentheads is this: the DVD will include "Goodbye Love" as an extra. According to Christopher Columbus' video blog on the official webpage, the movie didn't work with that scene. He said it killed him to cut it (and that the editor, who suggested cutting the scene in the first place, cried as they took it out), but that the film works better without it. He said he would definitely include it as an extra, but he would never put it back into the film itself.
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on February 16, 2006
I have seen both the movie and the stage version of Rent. I love both of them. But, we're here to talk about the movie. I love the fact that most of the original cast is back for this. Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp are perfect as Roger and Mark. Adam shows the tortured soul that is Roger. Finding out he has HIV and dealing with his girlfriend's death puts him in a place he never thought he would be. Mark, Collins, Angel, and Mimi help him realize that he isn't dead yet. Adam takes you through that journey with all the emotions that entails. Anthony shows Mark's emotions throughout the piece. The look on his face when he sees that Roger has come out of the house, and come to the Life Support meeting shows you just how much he cares for his best friend, and how worried he was, and still is for him. Having them in two sepereate locations for "What You Own" also helps the characters and gives the actors a new way of playing the scene. When they come together on the roof and you see the emotion as they say "I'm not alone," that is when they both come to the realization that they aren't alone and they don't have to be. And I have both the OBC and Movie soundtracks, and I've got to say their preformances on the movie soundtrack have improved. How can you not love Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Angel? He is Angel. Jesse L. Martin blew me away as Collins. And if you have seen him in Law and Order, you will love him in this. Wilson and Jesse together are a terrific pair and to see them portray Angel and Collin's relationship is magic. I do think Taye Diggs was a little underused, but with having to condense the play to a movie time frame, Benny was the one who would have to suffer. Idina Menzel rules as Maureen, but neither she nor the actress who I just saw play the part will make me like Over the Moon. That is not my favorite moment in either the movie or the play. Now, to the new additions. In my humble opinion, Rosario Dawson blew Daphne Rubin-Vega out of the water. I thought Daphne sounded whiny as Mimi, Rosario brought life, depth, and fun to her. Tracie Thoms as Joanne was a wonderful addition. I did miss Fredi Walker's voice, but Tracie held her own and made the part hers. Another reviewer seems to think that Adam Pascal and Idina Menzel are suffering from detoriating voices. That is not the case. Adam's preformance, as I said before, exceeded the OBC version. If you don't like hearing his voice in Rent, then I recommend a change of pace, there is the OBC of Aida and his two solo albums, Model Prisoner and Civilian, that will give you a different prespective. Idina hasn't suffered from her preformance in Wicked, she has improved. I look forward to watching the DVD and the deleted scenes, which from what I understand will include the rest of "Goodbye Love" and "Halloween." Unfortunatly, "Contact" wouldn't have worked in the movie. Seeing Collins holding Angel in his arms at the hospital brought you to the same place emotionally as the end of Contact. I hope that the people who didn't see this in the theater will give it a chance on DVD. The story line is still relevant. There are still people living with, and dying from, AIDS. Jonathan Larson's vision still rings true. "There's only us, there's only this. Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way. No day but today."
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on March 22, 2016
My sister just moved into her own apartment and when I asked her what she wanted, she jokingly said "Rent." How much more perfect of a gag gift idea could I have come up with! I immediately thought of this movie, which I own and enjoy myself, and had to find it. Turns out that Amazon is one of the few places that you can find it! It was perfect!

When the gift arrived, it was perfectly sealed and ready for gifting! When my sister opened it, it was in perfect condition! She was super excited about not only the disc but the special features that came with it! The case was in one piece and both discs were secured firmly in place. While the movie has very few similarities to her situation (other than the struggle to pay rent), it's a fun movie to watch if you enjoy musicals!

If you're looking for a movie to really lighten your mood some, give you a reason to laugh and to cry, then you have come to the right place! You will no doubt enjoy this movie for many movie nights to come! Do not wait, get this musical classic today!
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on June 12, 2011
There's no way a movie can duplicate the intensity of a live performance experience. (And I think I have enough experience to confidently say that this is just as true for the cast as it is for the audience.) But I am finding the difference easier to "forgive" than some other reviewers.

Chris Columbus was, I think, justly criticized for his Harry Potter adaptations being "too faithful." But the tendency to faithfulness worked very well here. He cut a few numbers, made minor concessions to realism, and took advantage of things that the live stage could not in terms of scale: filming on a rooftop and a desertscape for What You Own, a huge ballroom for Tango Maureen, and the beautiful church in which his few close friends look positively lost during Angel's memorial service. Same with the audio production techniques, which are closer to what we're accustomed to in rock albums than on a stage. The extremely slow tempo at which Collins starts the "I'll Cover You" reprise belongs in that category also: I think that is too hard to attempt when you have to do it live every night, but it is incredibly powerful here.

All in all, I think the only thing I missed about the movie was that Mark had less depth: his very raw and emotionally intimate relationship with Roger, his vulnerability and his isolation, all of which comes out in the longer, original version of "Goodbye Love," were not obvious enough and so he was just not as sympathetic as the rest of the characters. Oh, and I would have liked the scenes of the HIV support group to have been explored a bit more. But really, as long as you don't hold it to the impossible standard of having the same intensity as live theater, it is quite good.
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on March 10, 2006
I was sooo dissapointed by the movie version of RENT and I am not a "renthead". I saw the Broadway show for the first time on the 10 year anniversary because I had to see it onstage before the movie came out. I am so glad I did. I didn't know the plotline before I saw it and I literally cried for twenty minutes in the middle of Times Square after leaving the theatre. I couldn't even listen to disc two of the cast recording, for weeks, without crying. The scenes that they left out of the movie should have been left in. It would have added a whole ten minutes to the running time but they were so important to telling the whole story. I don't think I can sit through another viewing of this movie. If you want to know what the Broadway musical was like, buy the original broadway cast recording. It is exactly how the show runs, with little talk and so much more singing. It also gives you the whole story with all the emotion that should be in the movie. If you haven't seen RENT in the theater, the whole show is done with only one set. It's great!!
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