Rent Belongs In the Pantheon Of Immortal Musicals…”

Ken AshfordPopular Culture1 Comment

Dawson184Well, you can’t get a much better review than that.

Here’s the full NYT review, and here’s some select snippets from the review:

Approaching Chris Columbus’s film adaptation, which reunites most of the original Broadway cast to belt out Mr. Larson’s lung-stretching songs about love, art, real estate and AIDS, I was inclined toward the latter category. Two hours later, I was pleased (and somewhat surprised) to find myself an us, for once, instead of a them. Some aesthetic objections still stand – on screen as onstage, "Rent" is often dramatically jumbled and musically muddled – but every time the film seemed ready to tip into awfulness, the sneer on my lips was trumped by the lump in my throat.

***

In telling their entwined stories, Mr. Columbus has managed a feat similar to the one he pulled off with the first two "Harry Potter" movies; he has taken a source that is fiercely and jealously loved by its core fans and refrained from messing it up.

"Rent" is nothing if not earnest – a full-throated, breathless defense of na├»ve idealism and unapologetic joie de vivre in the face of death – and the slightest whisper of knowingness or cynicism would spoil it. But a cameo from the smarty-pants shock comedian Sarah Silverman notwithstanding, Mr. Columbus’s movie believes in itself utterly, and affirms that Mr. Larson’s creation belongs with "Hair" and "Fame" in the pantheon of immortal musicals with one-word titles celebrating the self-dramatizing, unembarrassable and resilient spirit of youth.

In other words, "Rent" is occasionally silly, often melodramatic and never subtle.

***

Yes, Bohemia is dead. Its funeral rites are pronounced by Mr. Larson’s best song ("La Vie Boheme," quoted earlier), a wondrously nonsensical catalog of tastes, ideas and attitudes ranging from microbrewed beers to Kurosawa movies, with a toast along the way to "Sontag and to Sondheim and to everything taboo." But the passage of time, which has left almost nothing taboo, has also inoculated "Rent" against the disdain of hipsters who might find it woefully unsophisticated. Its idea of Bohemia is not realistic, but romantic, even utopian. Openhearted to a fault, it stakes its integrity on the faith that even in millennial New York, some things – friendship, compassion, grief, pleasure, beauty – are more important than money or real estate.

Personal note to Cheryl:  Give Rosario Dawson (pictured above) a chance, will ya’?