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Posted to Movies at 01:18 PM on Mar 10, 2006

2005. Revolution Studios. Directed by Chris Columbus. Starring Rosario Dawson, Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, and Jesse L. Martin

I'll admit it: I'm not into musicals. The last Broadway musical that rolled into my neck of the woods was Miss Saigon five years ago. My only other experiences with musicals: the movie versions of Evita and Chicago. I know very little about Broadway and maybe don't appreciate it as I should.

So I had no real expectations for Rent. I'm told that the movie adaptation of Evita was actually kind of lousy; that Madonna's voice is quite poor, resulting in the need to alter the musical score. Somewhere along the line, I guess I concluded that film versions of musicals just don't work.

I know somewhere in the film version of Rent is a passionate, inspiring, uplifting musical. I know many, many people have seen the show and had their whole lives changed. There's something about the energy of the live experience that gives a Broadway show so much power.

Power that just doesn't end up on camera.

For me,the biggest thrill in this movie was seeing Jesse L. Martin sing and dance. Martin plays cranky, stoic detective Ed Green on Law & Order. He has an extensive musical resume, but nobody would ever know that just from watching the series. He's a trip as Tom Collins. The role only proves his amazing range.

Rosario Dawson is gorgeous and fragile as Mimi.

But the whole time, I knew I was watching a movie adaptation of a musical. Ultimately, the film failed to sweep me away in that way I imagine a really good play or musical can. I wasn't watching young New Yorkers face AIDS and get involved in complicated relationships; I was watching a bunch of good-looking people pretend to be young New Yorkers. It's as if celluloid itself destroys the spontaneity and passion of live theater. It's a paradox; onscreen adapatations feel so..."stagey".


It's opera! "Rent" struck me as a movie for fans of the show already -- it couldn't juxtapose real-life and "musical"-life the way "Chicago" could. Jesse L. Martin -- yum! I really hope the writers and producers don't screw up the biopic about Marvin Gaye in which Jesse is supposed to star.
Posted by NemesisVex at March 13, 2006 9:06 AM

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