December 2 - 8, 2005 • Vol. 25 - No. 48

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Music Releases

—“Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes”

by The Maven and The Blonde
Film Columnists

If any of you are unfamiliar with the history of the musical RENT, we’re now going to fill you in! Jonathan Larson wrote the musical and brought it to Broadway in 1996. Tragically, he did not live to see RENT become one of the longest running shows on Broadway nor to see all the awards the show and its performers won. Those awards include: The 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, The New York Drama Critic's Circle Award, four Tonys and three Drama Desk Awards.
You can only imagine what an audacious task it would be to bring this musical from the stage to the screen. Chris Columbus (the first two Harry Potter films) took on the directing and JulieLarson (Jonathan's sister) and Robert De Niro co-produced the endeavor. Writer Stephen Chbosky adapted it for the screen.
The story takes place in New York's' East Village, and the plot is similar to that of Puccini's La Boheme. The main characters are a group of bohemians struggling to live and pay rent in a gritty, rundown, crime ridden area. FYI, Bohemian lifestyle means you put creativity and art above everything, such as eating and paying rent. These individuals are looking for success and acceptance while enduring obstacles of poverty, drug addictions, eviction notices and, most importantly, the AIDS epidemic. In fact, many of the main characters are HIV-positive.
The narrator of the film is Mark Cohen, played by Anthony Rapp (A Beautiful Mind and Road Trip and an original RENT cast member), who is a filmmaker trying to balance art and commerce. His girlfriend recently left him for a woman. Mark's roommate is Roger, played by Adam Pascal (School of Rock and an original RENT cast member), who is an aspiring songwriter and a recovering heroin addict. Roger is emotionally shut down, so when he meets the downstairs neighbor, Mimi, he gives her the cold shoulder. Mimi is played by Rosario Dawson (Alexander and Sin City). She also has some baggage, but is persistent with her attraction to Roger. Returning to the neighborhood is Tom, played by Jesse L. Martin (“Law and Order,” Ally's boyfriend on “Ally McBeal,” and an original RENT cast member), who is a philosophy professor and a computer whiz. His first night back, Tom is mugged and rescued by his soon-to-be soulmate, Angel. Angel, played by Wilson Jermaine Heredia (an original RENT cast member), is a high-spirited street drummer, a transvestite and the heart of the group. Mark's ex-girlfriend is Maureen, who is a self indulgent performance artist played by Idina Menzel (Kissing Jessica Stein and an original RENT cast member). She dumped Mark for Joanne, a Harvard trained lawyer, played by Tracie Thomas. Rounding out the group is a former friend, Benny, who married the landlord’s daughter and is now considered a traitor to them all. He is played by Taye Diggs (Basic, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and an original RENT cast member).
For two-and-a-half hours, you will hear these people sing and see them dance and maybe care for them just a little. They live their lives to the fullest at all times because, for some of them, life will be too short.
The Blonde: RENT was like RENT on Broadway and maybe even like Tick Tick Boom, the other Broadway show written by Jonathan Larson before he died. Well, readers, right now being homeless from the hurricane, RENT  is something that I don't have to even think about! This film takes off from the very first scene, where the entire cast is standing in the darkened theater singing the show’s theme song! You are immediately sucked into to the story! I didn't expect too much from this film and, therefore, I was quite pleasantly surprised. It is, indeed, a wonderful story. I have to say, though, this film did drag at times, and I felt a tad bored. However, it did eventually pick up the pace and got to the meat of the story before it lost its audience altogether. My biggest criticism is that I do feel that RENT would be much more enjoyable as a stage show rather than a motion picture, but I enjoyed it regardless. I just felt the need to applaud several times and had to refrain. I found that both difficult and frustrating.


Story continued on bottom

The Maven: OH, PLEASE! YOU DID NOT! You kept bursting into applause after every song, embarrassing not only yourself, but ME, as everyone kept turning around to tell you to SHUT UP! I enjoyed everything about this film. The music, dancing and visuals were stunning. The message, although a little dated, was still clear. In the ‘80s HIV was almost a certain death sentence. Who could blame you for wanting to live life to the fullest. I didn't see the play, but I was familiar with the plot. The movie stayed true to it, even using eight actors who originated their roles on Broadway. Of course, ten years have passed, but so what if they were beyond their 20's. They still did a great job.

The Blonde: My favorite part of this film was that they used most of the original cast. I appreciate when the producers cast the original members. They lived and breathed their roles for years and that is why no one can do it the same, with that real passion. That is one reason why I am so looking forward to the movie version of The Producers. My favorite character in RENT was Angel. You could feel every emotion she was feeling and teaching the others. I must say that ALL the voices were star quality, breathtaking, exhilarating and emotional. My favorite singer was Adam Pascal, who played Roger, the guitar player/song writer. Oh my gosh, his voice gave me chills. He took my breath away. Tracie Thomas was brilliant as well. I suggest you see this film just to hear the extraordinary voices! Speaking of extraordinary, Elton John is getting married! What a lucky girl she is to get Sir Elton. I know one thing for certain is that her tiara and diamond ring will be fab! I adore Elton. Why didn't he pick ME?

The Maven: Oh you poor, sweet. naive Blonde! Elton is homosexual and is marrying his partner of 12 years, Canadian filmmaker David Furnish. The civil ceremony will take place December 21st under Britain's New Civil Union Law. THEY recognize the need to allow gays to have a legal union!

The Blonde: YEAH, Britain! But then who will wear the tiara?

The Maven: Now, that is a good question. I don't know, but if WE are invited, then you could certainly wear one of yours. Back to the film... Since you like Adam so much, if you are a good little BLONDE, I'll get you some of his CDs this holiday season. Rosario, who played Mimi, was amazing. Who knew that she could sing and dance so well?

The Blonde: The acting was wonderful, but I'm sorry I just have to keep raving about the singing. The cast’s tender, soulful, rich voices will just tear at your heartstrings. You will hear them singing in your ears long after you leave the theater. Not only that, each character was so well cast and well defined that you felt as though you knew them and rooted for each one of them.

The Maven: Not to change the subject, but  I have an "Oh my gosh" tidbit of info for everyone.

The Blonde: Oh, do tell, I LOVE your tidbits! They always go so well with my coffee.

The Maven: What's up with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark traveling to Iraq to consult with Saddam Hussein's attorneys? Why would anyone from this country have to go over there to help defend that monster?

The Blonde: Mav, don't ask me! I'm still trying to figure out why anyone from America went there to begin with! If we went there to capture Hussein, then why is one of our own there defending him or even being allowed to? I know that I am a Blonde, but I am totally confused.

The Maven: Well, honey, I am a BRUNETTE and even I am having trouble with this one! But, since I can't tie it into the film RENT, we should move along. Ever since seeing the film Chicago, I was wondering if other good musicals would follow. Thank goodness one has. RENT was exciting to watch and had a nice flow. If you are intolerant of other life style choices, this film may not be for you. It deals with drug addiction and same sex relationships. If those subjects are difficult for you to understand, you may not get much entertainment from this film. The music is rock based, so if your taste is more classical, the songs won't please you either. At least there is no nudity! I rate this movie a B for its bohemian look at life, friendships and love.

The Blonde: RENT teaches us all that where you live is not as important as what you live for! One of the important goals of writer Jonathan Larson was to make us all aware of AIDS and HIV and to help us understand the devastation and all it encompasses. It is a worthwhile film so see, even if you might find it slow at times. It does all come together nicely in the end. I rate it a B- but an A for the musical numbers and vocals. For your movie snacks, since this all takes place in the big apple, just bring along some Apple Jacks cereal to munch on! Some apple juice would go nicely here, too! SEE YOU AT THE MOVIES!

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