Rent (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

"525,600 minutes is about how long this movie felt"

Film Threat

I wrote in a recent review of Domino that the film advocates a self-defeating argument about the American media and their obsession with violence and celebrity - since the only media whores obsessed with Domino Harvey were the imaginary ones in the movie. The fact that the film had to make it all up, because the real media virtually ignored Domino, demonstrates that the film's premise was wrong to begin with. Only one person was obsessed with Domino Harvey - director Tony Scott. In fact, Scott appears to have been the only one gullible enough to have believed any of Domino's stories in the first place! Rent has the same sort of problem with self-contradiction. It is a modernization and Americanization of a Puccini opera, La Boheme, and it began as a highly successful Broadway play, eighth on the all-time Broadway list with about 4,000 performances, and a gross of $210 million. Yup, that's right. It was a play which celebrated the rejection of the consumerist mentality, and you only had to fork over 200 bucks a pop to see it.

The play/film is one of those new sorts of musicals that blends Italian opera conventions with elements of neo-realism. As far as I'm concerned, the conventions worked better for Puccini. His operas seem kind of quaint and excessively conventional in that the characters  sing every word instead of mixing song with dialogue, but it doesn't seem that stilted to me because:

(1) the operas follow the old-fashioned theater conventions, and don't perform in "real time" scenarios - they don't sing everyday verbiage like "I have to take a shit" or "why don't you ever buy enough bagels?"

(2) the whole friggin' thing is in Italian, anyway, so even if they did sing about their bowel movements, I wouldn't care. Hell, I can't even understand the words to most songs in English, so when they sing in Italian I have no clue. I can just listen to the beautiful music and feel the general sense of the words. When Butterfly sings "Un bel di," the meaning is entirely in my head and exists apart from the words. She might actually be singing about re-capping her tires, and I would never know it.

The musical convention of singing every word is less comfortable for me in these new-wave musicals where they do include mundane verbiage in the songs and, what's worse, I can occasionally understand it. The opening song of Rent is basically a rendering of Pi to about forty decimal places with a chorus singing "Love" in counterpoint. Later on, they do a bluesy wail of "I'd like a table for eight," and the heartfelt response, "Sorry, sir, there will be a half-hour wait. Have a drink in the bar." Of course, there were a few songs where my toes were tapping and I was happily constructing improvised harmonies and humming along - until I snapped out of my trance and realized they were singing about the advanced stages of degenerative diseases. It was catchy, though. Man, if you like music, being gay is suh-weet. You get most of the good songs in general, and all the good fatal disease songs. Straight people have a ton of catching up to do on death music. Seems like gay people are always singin' and dancin' about AIDS, but where are the catchy tunes for cancer or heart disease?

Plus if you're gay, you can share clothes, and you are never expected to pick up the whole check for two people eating together. I should look into that. I wonder if it works like becoming a Catholic. By that I mean that when you convert to Catholicism you don't get to pick and choose the parts you like. You can't tell the priest, "OK, I buy into the blood of Christ, but not the body." No, you accept the whole package, or your application is denied. Is it the same with being gay? I wonder if you are allowed to be gay without giving blow jobs or attending Cher  concerts. Do they make exceptions for converts? Cuz I might agree to sing YMCA, but I ain't gonna go see Ricky Martin, and I absolutely ain't gonna Macarena or do the Hand Jive in public.

IMDb doesn't include any breakdown for straight/gay preference, but the male/female breakdown places Rent in ultra-chick-flick territory. The male-female differential of 1.6 comes close to the all time champion chick-flick, Dirty Dancing (1.9). Rent is scored 6.7 by males, 8.3 by females, with the strongest support coming from females under 18 (9.0). Even the male score of 6.7 is not such a bad score. Even if you factor out a presumed number of gay guys who loved it, hetero men must still have scored it about six. On the other hand, the top 1000 voters, those movie geeks who review hundreds of movies, hate the film and score it only 4.1! Critics were split down the middle.

The performers in this film all do a great job. They should. They've played the roles enough times. Six of the eight come from the original Broadway cast, including two who are now married to one another (Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel), who first met while doing the play in New York. The two exceptions were Daphne Rubin-Vega and Fredi Walker, the original Broadway Mimi and Joanne. Walker, by her own admission, was too old to play Joanne. Rubin-Vega was not only too old (34) to play Mimi (19) on screen, but was pregnant as well. The two newcomers including rising star Rosario Dawson, who adds singing and dancing to her list of accomplishments. All cast members, original cast and additions, are committed to their characters.

As for those characters, here are my recommendations:

1. Get jobs.

2. Pay your rent

3. Pool your remaining money.

4. Hire a real songwriter.



  • Director & Selected Cast Commentary
  • Feature Length Documentary  No Day But Today
  • Days of Inspiration - Jonathan Larson's formative years. His childhood through college
  • Leap of Faith - Jonathan's move to NY and the subsequent experiences and projects that led up to writing RENT
  • Another Day - The creation process of the musical RENT. From conception to the final dress rehearsal.
  • Without You - The death of Jonathan Larson, we then follow the show's amazing success story from off-Broadway to worldwide phenomenon
  • Over the Moon - this last portion covers the making of the actual movie with a final tribute to Jonathan Larson
  • Deleted Scenes and Musical Performances
  • Widescreen, anamorphically enhanced.


Idina Menzel shows her bum in a dance number.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: two and a quarter  stars. James Berardinelli 2/4, Roger Ebert 2.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $40 million for production. It grossed $29 million in a maximum of 2400 theaters.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C. Fans of musical theater seem to think it is entertaining, and the DVD includes three hours worth of extras.

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