‘Rent’ Goes From the Stage to the Silver Screen

Hornet Copy Editor
The Hornet
Fullerton College

“Rent” is by far not for everyone. In order to appease fans, the film adapters for “Rent” made sure to make it as true to its original Broadway format as possible.

This means lots and lots and lots of singing. Which means the actors need to know how to sing.

Another way to appease the so-called “Rent-heads” is that most of the film’s actors were selected from the original Broadway cast when the play debuted in 1996. Protagonist Roger was played by Adam Pascal (“SLC Punk,” “School of Rock”), documenter Mark was played by Anthony Rapp (“Road Trip,” “Twister”), and vocal lesbian Maureen was played by Idina Menzel (Elphaba in Broadway production “Wicked”), to name a few.

Exotic dancer Mimi, however, was not played by the actress from the original cast, but instead by Rosario Dawson (“Josie and the Pussycats,” “Sin City”).

Nevertheless, this casting choice does not by far detract from the film. Dawson can sing surprisingly well and acts exceptionally.

It’s believable when she’s stricken with AIDS and caught between life and death. “Rent” chronicles the year in the life of eight friends in New York City.

The story involves a lot of homelessness, drugs, drag queens, homosexuality, and AIDS. It’s essentially a two hour risque soap opera-musical.

The main theme of the film, however, seems to be that it serves as a commentary on the social issues of the ’80s and early ’90s, AIDS and homelessness especially.

Character Mark Cohen (Rapp) constantly films the desolate wasteland that the eight friends have made their home in, finally compiling “the perfect film” at the end of the movie that documents all of these issues.

Vocal lesbian Maureen stages a protest against a corporation taking over a place where homeless people gather.

One of the main characters dies from AIDS, leaving the others to cope. Some of them use or used to use serious drugs.

Though these issues were major concerns back in the ’80s and ’90s, they are still relevant today, thus “Rent” still appeals to audiences on a social front.

However, the biggest mantra of “Rent” is “No day but today,” as is repeated in various songs. Where “Rent” truly shines, however is in its music. Unlike classic musicals, “Rent” stands out with its eccentric beats and lyrics.

Most of the music is rock-inspired, and most of the lyrics are feel-good and soul-bearing. Yet to one who is not experienced in or fond of the musical genre, “Rent” may come off as unrealistic and annoyingly spontaneous in its songs. That’s why “Rent” is by far not for everyone.

Overall, it earns a four out of five. Though I personally loved it (and have a long history of obsession over the musical), I realize that it will not appeal to everyone. Because of its selective appeal, I cannot therefore reward it all given five stars.

And yes, this is the musical “Team America” mocks by singing that catchy song, “Everyone has AIDS.”