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(2005, 135 min)
Director: Chris Columbus
Jonathan Larson's award-winning Broadway musical comes to the big screen in this story of a group of friends living in New York's East Village, all confronted with the realities of urban living including homelessness, drug abuse and AIDS.
It became a part of Broadway folklore when writer-composer Jonathan Larson passed away just before the opening of his musical "Rent." The show, of course, went on to win multiple Tony Awards, not to mention speaking to a younger generation in musical terms. The film version, starring most of the original cast, arrives nearly ten years later; a little older and slightly more dated, but retaining the emotion and power that has made it one of Broadway's longest-running shows. A musical about AIDS and homelessness wouldn't, at first, appear to be the stuff of theatrical legend. But Larson's melodic, rock-flavored score and gallery of beguiling characters -- many of them living in a lower East Side tenement -- set the stage for a one-of-a-kind entertainment. Among them are roommates Mark (Rapp), an aspiring filmmaker, and Roger (Pascal), a songwriter who has AIDS; their neighbor Mimi (Dawson), who is attracted to Roger; their friend Tom Collins (Martin), who also is HIV-positive, and Tom's drag queen lover Angel (Heredia); and Mark's lesbian ex-girlfriend Maureen (Menzel) and her current lover Joanne (Thoms). How their lives intersect through love, friendship and song forms the core of Rent, a time capsule that nevertheless engages as each person learns that there is -- as one of its more famous songs suggests -- "no day like today." Look past the fact that these actors are at least a decade older than their characters, or the loss of a theatrical intimacy, and enjoy this energetic adaptation of a theatrical landmark.
-- David Bleiler