R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Chris Columbus
scr Steve Chbosky
with Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Jesse L Martin, Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Idina Menzel, Tracie Thoms, Mackenzie Firgens, Jason Foster, Daniel London, Sarah Silverman
release US 23.Nov.05, UK 7.Apr.06
05/US Columbia 2h15

We're not gonna pay rent: the cast members break into song at every opportunity

heredia diggs martin thoms rapp menzel dawson pascal
Rent In adapting Jonathan Larson's stirring La Boheme update to the big screen, Columbus has made his finest, most emotionally rich film yet. While the stage musical's mid-1990s roots show glaringly at times, the show has enough raw, open-throated passion to win over the cynics.

It's Christmas 1989, and a group of young Bohemians are about to be evicted from their shabby Manhattan loft for not paying rent all year. Mark (Rapp) is an aspiring filmmaker, Roger (Pascal) dreams of writing the perfect song, and Collins (Martin) meets a kind stranger, Angel (Heredia), who becomes rather more than that. Mark's ex, Maureen (Menzel), is planning a performance piece with new girlfriend Joanne (Thoms), protesting against landlord Benny (Diggs), a former resident. And Roger is finally noticing the sexy dancer Mimi (Dawson) downstairs.

This year-in-the-life is played out against a period of high crime, drug abuse and relational chaos. It's also shaded by the pervasive appearance of Aids. The songs and script reflect these realities with bracing honesty, while Columbus takes the show off the stage and into the streets, Subways, support groups and performance spaces. It's strikingly rough around the edges, which makes it feel even more realistic.

Each character transcends cliches as they progress into and out of various relational entanglements, build friendships and discover where their dreams really lie. The strong ensemble is full of energy, really belting out the songs and keeping the choreography looking fresh. Standouts include Pascal's conflicted bundle of hopes and fears, Martin's life-loving romantic and Thoms' sardonic, steely-eyed lawyer.

And while many songs feature rather clunky lyrics, it's Larson's blending of the profound with the banal that makes them come to life, especially in several terrific showstoppers. The overall theme is echoed in the recurring lyric: "No other road, No other way, No day but today". This is an examination of taking whatever life throws at us and making the most of it--a theme that resonates in any decade. If you let the songs and the stories grab hold, this is one of the most powerful and moving musicals you'll ever see.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo, drugs 1.Dec.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Rent Donna Carter, Wisconsin: "It's not always dealing with comfortable issues. In fact, mostly NOT dealing with comfortable issues, but that's the point. It was well written, well performed. I thought it was very moving, telling the stories from the inside perspective without attempting to cast judgment one way or another -- an 'as it is' perspective, not necessarily how it should be (but even how it should be completely depends upon personal perspective). I think my husband would have said it was a movie full of worthless people of unredeeming character. Not having seen the many-award-winning broadway production, I don't know how it compared to that. Very moving." (27.Nov.05)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall