Rent (2005)

Date of first viewing: Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Location: Lowe's Metreon with Mark
and Friday, December 2, 2005 at United Artists Metro Theatre with Sonia and Anna
and Monday, December 19, 2005 at AMC 1000 Van Ness with Michael
and many more times on DVD

RentWOW! I’ve seen "Rent" on stage 4 times and listened to the cast album over and over. But the movie blew me away! The director used the medium of film well to highlight things in ways that can't be done on stage. “Tango: Maureen” was brilliant. “Santa Fe” done in the subway was a hoot. "Today 4 U" and "La Vie Boheme" were exciting, and Tom's reprise of "I'll Cover You" had everyone in the theater in tears.

To me, skipping "Contact" was a blessing. It's my least favorite part of the show. In fact, I’ve always found the last half of the show to be thin and unfinished somehow. In the film, plot points are fleshed out in ways that give the relationships more meaning. I LOVE the additional details of Joanne’s and Maureen’s relationship. And unlike a previous reviewer, I thought the use of montages were effective.

A problem of the stage show is too much explication and not enough action. The film adheres to that old saying, "Show; don't tell." In the movie, quite a bit of the sung explication is replaced with visual sequences. We don't need to hear Roger sing clunky lyrics about how Mark lives for his work and detaches from feeling alive because we can see it for ourselves. And still, all but a handful of songs remain fantastically intact.

I did miss "Goodbye Love." On the other hand, I didn't realize I missed it until I came home and played the album. The film also replaces quite a bit of the sung dialogue with spoken dialogue. It was weird at first, but after a while I realized how much more effective this technique is for a wider audience. The first time people see "Rent" on stage, they miss quite a bit of important information because the words are sung so fast and the performers’ diction is not always great. Speaking the words eliminates this problem. The story is not "dumbed down." The delivery of the story is simply more accessible. Not everyone has the patience of a Renthead to go back time after time and pick up what they missed.


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