Dear Readers, This post is my submission for The Movies That Haven’t Aged Well Blogathon, our host is Steve at moviemovieblogblog! Unlike other blogathons, this event has a soft release date. Postings occur between now and 8/31/15. Visit the host site, check out the full event. While you’re there enjoy his other fun posts covering The Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, The Beatles, and Miss Jane Russell. How can you not enjoy that blog, right?
For this event, I selected Rent. I saw it the other night, and it felt so … 90s. I know you’re going to say, Summer, a movie from 2005? Ten years is not enough time to tell whether a film ages well or not.
This may hold true, in the larger sense. But for me, Rent just does not resonate the way it used to. I saw Rent live and I remember thinking how edgy it was, so unlike any other musical I had ever seen before. I loved Rent and I loved the movie. I still love a lot about Rent but, somewhere in the ten years since this film came out, we somehow disconnected.
For those unacquainted with Rent, let me give you the quick version. Rent is a Pulitzer and Tony award-winning musical/rock operetta based on La Boheme, HIV replaces consumption, and it takes place in New York during the late 1980s or early 1990s.
Anna Deavere Smith (performance art diva) has a cameo role in the film, but don’t expect anything neat, she just stands there.
Before I start, I do not want to diminish Rent’s cultural importance. It tackles HIV’s difficult reality, which is not passé. HIV is a devastating disease stealing millions of lives. It is a beautiful show, elegantly dealing with a very real problem facing society. The film’s message is important and dramatic moments are incredibly moving.
Here are the opening credits, as you see the actors have amazing voices:
The film is well-cast, the filmmakers were smart in securing Anthony Rapp (Mark) and Idina Menzel (Maureen) from the Broadway production. As the title suggests, the show is about rent. In case you miss that point, they drum it home with the song entitled “Rent”:
We’re not gonna pay, we’re not gonna pay
We’re not gonna pay, last year’s rent
This year’s rent, next year’s rent
And all I can think is why aren’t you paying your rent? I mean, do you want to be a hobo? I am confused why are all of these people in these massive lofts, not paying rent? I am an artist, and I pay rent!
Then we meet Benjamin Coffin III (Taye Diggs), Benny is a former friend, his father-in-law owns the buildings, and apparently he said they could live there Rent-free! God, can you imagine being a property owner and your daughter marries this kid with slacker chums, and he tells them they can stay in your property RENT-FREE?
Well, Benny wants to tear the building down and build a Cyber Studio, exactly what Mark wanted. Boy, Benny is having fun with daddy-in-law’s money, isn’t he? They never go into detail what a cyber studio is. I picture a bunch of guys in silver leather pants with orange bug eye sunglasses, and an eyebrow piercing, guzzling Snapples and working at those technicolor iMacs while an in-house DJ pumps techno through the building.
Get this: Benny will allow Mark and his HIV+ roommate, Roger (Adam Pascal), to stay rent-free if they can stop the protest. Now, if I were in that situation, I would pull the plug on the protest right away, but do they? OH, NO! They act like a bunch of arrogant little whiners complaining that Benny is a sell-out.
Excuse me, Benny has let you live rent-free in his building for how long? At least two years you sang! He is building the cyber studio of your dreams, will probably even buy you the silver leather pants if you ask nicely, HOW IS BENNY TURNING HIS BACK ON YOU? If anything I would call him an enabler, get your co-dependent butts out of that 15,000 square foot loft, quit whining and get a job!
Meanwhile a 19-year-old stripper, dizzy with either drug withdrawal or low blood sugar, named Mimi (Rosario Dawson) shows up at Roger’s massive loft, where she throws herself shamelessly at angst ridden Roger.
The film spends an hour introducing other characters including their friend Tom Collins played by the uber handsome Jesse Martin (who can do a mean pirouette), and his boyfriend Angel played by Wilson Jermaine Heredia.
Angel sings a techno song about driving a dog to suicide for $1000. Hit the fast forward button, you will thank me for the warning. It might be the song he played for the dog, this song is really catchy, it remains in your brain for life.
We finally arrive at the protest, performance artist Maureen (Menzel) performs. The scene involves call and response moo-ing and the cow jumping over the moon.
Well, the moo-ing turns into a riot and our core group all relocate to a restaurant, the same restaurant as Benny and his father-in-law, what a coincidence!
Benny essentially tells everyone their lifestyle is dead, grow up, and the gang eulogizes the death of Bohemia in “La Vie Boheme”. Okay, I like this song just enjoy it. Wacky Spanish subtitles and all. Bonus points for every cultural reference you recognize!
At this point, the show takes a darker turn, but you have to watch the film to see the rest. This post is spoiler-free.
I won’t lie, Rent is very late 80s early 90s. But every generation has a musical so topical it feels dated, check out Treat Williams singing “I Got Life” to a young Beverly D’Angelo and her family in a similarly exuberant table dancing scene from Hair:
Like Hair, Rent gets deathly serious, both films are still extremely relevant. But also both films and their source material are clearly a product of their generation. At times, it feels like a time gone by.
I guess growing up changes your perspective.
Maybe that makes me a sell-out.
No wait, I’m still cool! I knew what Mark referenced when he sang the line, “against the grain” in “La Vie Boheme”, hardly anyone gets that line, and I read that book twice.
At least my rent is paid.
If you haven’t seen Rent, it’s worth viewing, bring a box of tissues, you will cry. You can catch it online here for $2.99 through Google Play.
Again, make sure you check out moviemovieblogblog for the rest of the event!
Ciao for Now!