Rent: The Musical Rocks as Hard as Ever

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Rent: The Musical Rocks as Hard as Ever
A review of the film compared to the Broadway show.

Mark J. Lehman
A&E Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The screen is pitch black as small, insignificant titles fade in. There's nothing flashy here -- only a palpable anticipation. And when the familiar block letters that spell out "Rent" come on screen accompanied by the almost universally-known intro to arguably Broadway's most popular song, "Seasons of Love," those who have seen the live show feel that certain flutter in the pits of their stomachs.

Thankfully, even with a few hitches, the film version of this generation's greatest musical hits way more than it misses, making it a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours. The film allows those audience members who missed out on the show to enjoy the story with almost the entire original Broadway cast.

For those who have been living in a cave the last 10 years, the story of "Rent" revolves around roommates Mark (Anthony Rapp), an aspiring filmmaker, and Roger (Adam Pascal), an aspiring musician, as they and fellow Bohemian artists struggle to live the way they want while coping with AIDS, which half the characters have, and fighting landlords over rent in a run-down section of New York called Alphabet City.

Director Christopher Columbus -- famous for "Home Alone " as well as the first two "Harry Potter" films -- brings this adaptation to the screen with his usual lack of creativity and flair, but luckily for him, the story is so incredible and emotional that it overtakes any flaws in direction. Plus, writer Stephen Chbosky, who penned another of our generation's great stories, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," crafts a taut adaptation of the original story by making a few small changes that help the transition from theatre to film, such as changing much of the dialogue to spoken word rather than singing.

However, aside from the elaborate sets, the film looks very much like someone took a camera to the musical and shot. The staging and cinematography are all reminiscent of the stage show and often seem forced on screen where in live theatre it would be perfectly acceptable. Luckily, the movement is very visceral and keeps things entertaining.

As for the acting, most of the players make the transition from theatre to film with ease. Tom Collins (Jesse L. Martin) and Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia) in particular play incredibly well off each other, and their contagious charm and charisma easily infect the audience. Pascal's performance as Roger, though, is somewhat less appealing, as most of his closeups show him more confused than anything else.

For lovers of the show, the film might disappoint slightly, but not nearly enough to fail to entertain or affect the emotions.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan:]
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