Movie Review: RENT - Filmed Live On Broadway (2008)
Aubrey Ward III
I'm not telling you what to see. I'm not telling you what not to see. I'm just sharing my experience and opinion on the movie, tv show or play that I have seen. I'm merely an advisor. Ultimately, you will have to go with your own gut and decide if you'll buy the ticket or not.View all articles by Aubrey Ward III
The cast of Rent! Well, most of them anyway
“RENT” is basically about a group of friends and their tumultuous year together. The musical was written by the late, great Jonathan Larson and is loosley based on the opera "La Boheme". The show opens with Mark (Adam Kantor) & Roger (Will Chase). Mark is a struggling writer and Roger is a struggling musician. Both share a dilapidated building as their home keeping warm by any means while pursuing their dreams. Along the way we meet hottie dancer / junkie Mimi (Renee Elise Goldsberry), the outrageous Maureen (Eden Espinosa), level headed lawyer Joanne (Tracie Thoms), the too cool for school college professor Collins (Michael McElroy) and the kindhearted drag queen Angel (Justin Johnston). Former buddy Benny (Rodney Hicks) drops in a couple of times, sometimes as a hindrance and sometimes as a helper.
Roger (Will Chase), Collins (Michael McElroy), Maureen (Eden Espinosa) & Benny (Rodney Hicks)
Throughout the twelve month period we watch this group of friends laugh, fight, grieve, leave and love each other. The show does a fantastic job of simultaneously presenting the characters’ personal dramas while putting the spotlight on important social issues like AIDS, homosexuality, drug abuse, and homelessness. A cast of wicked cool characters of every shade, a totally hip story, and a phenomenal soundtrack have made “RENT” a Broadway classic. I could seriously write a small novella about how much I love “RENT” and how it impacted my life in a positive way. But I’m keeping my focus on this newest cinematic incarnation.
How does the stage show translate to the big screen? Honestly, I would say the transfer was about 90% complete. I just don’t believe you can bottle up “live”. I own DVD editions of live shows such as “Riverdance at Radio City” and “Purlie”. Sure, I love watching the performances and I’m very grateful that someone in his/her infinite wisdom recorded the event so I can watch it whenever I want. But you can’t put the vibrations from the live band in a DVD case. You can’t attach a special feature that will channel the vibe from seeing the performers right there, in your presence, on a stage. Perhaps one day technology will be created to make that miracle happen. But with the present HD projectors and surround sound we have now the “live” experienced isn’t fully achieved.
But it comes close enough.
There are so many advantages to seeing “RENT: Filmed Live”. I admit that at first I scoffed at paying $20 to see it. My first thought was that I didn’t want to pay that amount when I pay $10 max to see a regular feature. Then I talked with some friends and realized that I was paying $20 to see a Broadway show without having to hike it to The City. The view alone is worth $20. Imagine seeing “RENT” in a movie theater with stadium seating. No big hats to worry about and, depending on your cinema of choice, you’ll probably have a more comfortable seat than at the Nederlander. $20 also gets you a point of view that beats Orchestra seating hands down. The camera got so tight on the actors in some scenes that I could actually make out the writing on some of their costumes.
Mimi (Renee Elise Goldsberry) Gives Roger (W. Chase) An Offer He'd Be Nuts To Refuse
Fans who think they have seen it all might find a few surprises thanks to those incredible camera angles. Small details like Roger’s tattoo of his dead girlfriend on his hand are quite vivid thanks, I suppose, to the HD tech. There was something really brilliant about seeing the actors perform “Take Me or Leave Me”, “I’ll Cover You”, “La Vie Boheme” close enough where I could see the emotion in their faces. You know that old stage tale about not sitting too close to the ballet hence the illusion is spoiled? Not so with “RENT”.
Yes, I went on and on about how it didn’t feel completely live but that sure as heck doesn’t mean you won’t feel a part of the action. From the adrenaline pumping title song to the alluring “Take Me Out” to the soul stirring “Seasons of Love” that opens the second act. One minute I was tapping my foot then the next minute I was fishing for a Kleenex because I was getting all vaclempt during the funeral scene…AGAIN!! The “RENTheads” know what I’m talking about. Five live shows, one movie, and one filmed live show movie and that scene still gets my waterworks running.
Collins (M. McElroy) and Angel (Justin Johnson)
Another aspect of “RENT” that translates well through the silver screen is the performances. The show has rarely failed in attracting some of the finest talent in the dramatic arts especially in the vocal department and this version is thankfully no exception.
The entire cast is excellent. I loved how they stayed true to characters established way back by the original troupe back in 1994 while adding their own special nuances. This preserves the freshness of the show without making it completely unrecognizable.
Mimi (R.E. Goldsberry) Is Going Out Tonight!
True, it would have been kind of nice to have the original cast resurrect their stage roles for the filming but I think I prefer having this new crew in there. For one thing this allows for more of the focus to be placed on the characters the actors are playing rather than on Idina Menzel or Jesse L. Martin. It also gives the opportunity for this particular cast to get some exposure which will hopefully enhance their careers as much as the original cast.
My verdict is that if you didn’t get to see the last performance of “RENT” in September 2008 then you should go and say your farewells proper. If you were not particularly thrilled with the movie adaptation then here’s the chance to see the actual show in a movie format. It’s been recorded practically verbatim including the nine minute intermission. If you’ve never seen “RENT” then by all means go online and find out where it’s playing. This is a major event not only in Broadway history but also pop-culture history, movie history…..history-history. See it, experience it, then keep you’re eyes out for the traveling tour so you can catch it completely live. Viva la vie boheme!!
Mark (Adam Kantor) and Roger (W. Chase)
To find out where “RENT: Filmed Live on Broadway” is playing in your backyard go to http://www.thehotticket.net/rent/main.php or other popular movie ticketing sites such as www.movietickets.com and www.fandango.com. But make it quick because according to The Hot Ticket site, “RENT” is out on 9/27 and 9/28 and then that’s it. Well, until the national tour, of course.
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