Sunday, November 27, 2005

Rent the Movie - Reviewing the Reviewers

Rent: the Movie has, as of this posting, has a 51% rating at http://www.rottentomatoes.com. I had heard throught the grapevine that there was a large outpouring of negative reviews for the movie version of Rent. I chose not to read any reviews before seeing the movie (which I find is generally a good idea, since movie-watching is a process of individual revelation and discovery) and kept my mind firmly open while watching and subsequently enjoying this powerful movie. While my mind was open, I do have an outstanding bias, as I have seen the musical on broadway, albeit not the original cast version. My review of the movie is that the movie definitely captures the essence of the stage musical and captures the same raw emotion. In sum, I loved the musical and I loved the movie.

After my enjoyable afternoon at the movies with my girlfriend and my high praise for the movie, I dared brave the negative land of film reviewers. I am happy, and at the same time disgusted, to report that the majority of bad reviews came from critics who never saw the musical and rejected the whole storyline, or those who saw the musical and hated it on stage and equally detest it now. Therefore I can understand if you give the movie a bad review because you can't handle the plot of the original, afterall it handles some awfully heavy subject matter. At the same time I think it is awfully close-minded of anyone to reject this story on highly superficial grounds. Sure, on the surface this is a play about a bunch of friends who have AIDs, many who got it from arguably irresponsible and unethical activites (like needle sharing), all whom refuse to pay rent, have lots of gay sex, and whine about capitalism all day - I mean, come on, what a bunch of lazy, fascist, pretentious pricks, right? And there lies the rub. I don't condone not paying your rent, but this movie is about so much more than that. It is about hope, redemption, life affirmation, love, friends, the evils of rampant commercialism, humanity and did I say life, specifically take time to enjoying life in the present. Not only are the themes deep and exploratory in nature, the characters are real people with true depth and connectivity. I was emotionally pulled into the musical, and expanded that connection after seeing the movie. Therefore it is safe to dismiss any review from anyone who rejects the storyline - they don't like the story and that is their perogative. Anyone who has not seen the musical really doesn't have much say in reviewing the movie, or at least with any pretense of giving the movie a fully honest review.

With that said, I think the main objection from critics who saw the broadway show but did not like the movie is that the movie fails to connect to those who have not seen the musical. This is a legitimate concern. Since I am obviously biased, and since I have an emotional bond with the musical, and now the movie, it is hard for me to make an objective evaluation of this claim. What I can say is that this is surprising to me, as I must admit I did not follow everything during my experience on Broadway as I got lost at a few points, and often got lost in the music. The movie was an excellent chance for me to fill in the gaps, and visualize some aspects of the musical that were harder to grasp on a stationary stage set. Indeed the movie added another dimension to Rent that was helpful. Since the music (which I I can't get enough of) is taken straight from the musical, I can't help but think that the movie would be a great way to introduce Rent virgins who are willing to accept the premises to this powerful story. At the least I would figure that one would get lost in the same way I did during my introduction to Rent. This by no mean makes the music, characters, and themes hard to detect or to get entangled in, it simply means that one might not "get" the story on all levels. Though this tends to be the mark of any good story, especially in the movies, as any movie that can keep you discovering new themes and aspects after many viewings is the mark of a multi-dimensional story. Any serious movie buff gets this and my recent favorite multi-dimensional movie is the movie Crash - a MUST see. Anyways, that is for another blog entry.

Finally, others just did not like the movie adaptation. This is a matter of personal preference, though I surely did not see it. Since six of the eight actors were members of the original cast, the acting was superb. The sets were vivid, raw, and for the most part believable. The music - well it was the music from Rent - you either love it or hate it. There is some question as to whether the added lines of dialogue detracted from the original or added a new dimension. Personally, I think they made the plot easier to follow at times. At the very least I did not really see it as a major mark on the movie since the musical numbers do the real speaking anyway.

So there you have it. My best advice is to go see it yourself and see what you think - then come back here and let me know what you thought!

1 comment:

PaxRomano said...

Jason,
Great review! I agree that many of the so called critics, who have been bashing this film, either never saw the play or did not enjoy the source material to begin with.

I understand that everyone has their own personal tastes, and might find the character's and their life choices somewhat distasteful (of course if that is the problem then why would films like The Godfather have such great critical response, talk about characters having made bad life choices, sheesh!).

Still, glad you liked the film and thanks for sharing your thoughts.