Review By: Gringo


I'm quite sure several hundred unfunny websites have already reviewed this movie by making reference to the scene in Team America: World Police that features a musical called Lease in which the characters sing about everyone having AIDS. So, if you'd like that joke, please go to Oh, wait, you can't go there anymore. Tee hee!

Sure, four of the main characters in the movie musical Rent have AIDS, but it's not the only thing these people sing about. They also have rent on their minds! Seriously, one of the songs features the highly elaborate lyrics "last year's rent! This year's rent! Next year's rent! Rent, rent, rent, rent, we're not gonna pay rent!". I think the name of the song was The Little Boy Who Tried And Tried But Couldn't. But despite what the sarcastic tone of my writing may lead you to believe, I really rather liked this movie.

Set in the late 80s/early 90s the movie features a group of stereotypes hanging out together in a large New York City studio apartment. One of the friends, Benny, has given up his bohemian lifestyle in order to make money and have a decent life. Travesty! Two of his friends -- struggling director Mark and struggling musician Roger -- seem to take great issue with the fact that Benny wants to renovate the apartment building, give them a rent-free place to live and also a place where they can produce films and write music. What a silly idea!

Throw into the mix a transvestite called Angel (yes, there are lazy attempts to indicate this person was a real Angel to his friends), some black guy that gets beaten up, and two rather sexy lesbians, and you have Rent. I've never seen the stage musical, and I understand they've changed some of the songs slightly for the version up on the big screen. If so, then I think I won't be paying a visit to the theater anytime soon. And not just because I'm homeless!

Most of the tunes in the first half of the movie are very catchy, with some genuinely funny lyrics and ideas. I particularly liked a song called Tango: Maureen between Mark and the girl that's now dating his slutty ex-girlfriend, and La Vie Boheme, which is the big group number where everyone gets to sing about how great living a nasty little lifestyle is. The second half of the movie -- where couples break up and AIDS starts killing people -- is slower than the first, but overall this is a very enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours.

Chris Columbus directed this movie, and the only major flaws from his direction are the fact that the exterior shots right outside the supposed New York City apartment block look somewhat clearly like the interior of a studio set, and the Columbus' insistence on using as many members of the original Broadway cast of Rent as possible. I think just two of the original cast -- from 1996, mind you -- didn't repeat their characters in the movie, and it causes a few problems.

See, this movie is meant to about young twenty-somethings struggling to live Bohemian lifestyles in the big city. However, because of the ravages of time, the original Broadway cast now look in their late 20s/early 30s, and the whole hip young thing angle isn't that believable. I would believe that these friends could all be failed late-twenty-somethings who have had nothing but failure since moving to New York City, because I certainly know enough people in that age range who have screwed up their lives in the Big Apple. And when the songs don't require the audience to suspend belief, the movie works.

But when the songs make references to how shockingly young the characters are supposed to be, then the fact you just don't believe the words coming out the mouths of the characters pulls you out of the movie and makes you shake your head like an arrogant little prick. Example time! Rosario Dawson -- if I was a 60s swinger I would type rrrrrowwrrrr here to emulate a cat purring its excitement -- plays Mimi, a hooker/stripper/dancer/acrobat/knife saleswoman who is keen on Roger. Mimi, like Roger, is lumbered with AIDS, no doubt the product of yet another night of paid-for promiscuity.

Hey, I know all about promiscuity! One of the hookups that sticks in my mind most clearly is the evening I spent in a gay bar. Well, I say the evening, it was more like five minutes. I wandered in (post-consumption of a bottle or two of cheap white wine) and made my way to the bar to order a drink. Mid-order I got talking to this guy who looked relatively attractive, with his Abercrombie & Fitch wardrobe and shoulder-length hair, and by the end of the drink order we were sucking each other's faces. How romantic.

I downed my drink and then we left. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Gringo is that easy. He drove us back to his place, where he proceeded to go down on me like a champion. Did I return the favor? How's about no. I instead pretended to be falling asleep and made the excuse that I had to run to the bathroom and take my contact lenses out, lest I fall asleep wearing them and wake up to have more in common with Mr. Magoo than just a permanent confused frown.

Sadly, I had no contact lens case and, being relatively inexperienced with my lenses as I'd only just go them, I decided leaving them out in the dry air would be the most sensible step to take. The next morning when I woke up, they'd dried up and were no use. But despite this eyesight problem, I was still able to register the fact that the Abercrombie & Fitch model's face didn't resemble that of a GQ magazine model, but rather oddly resembled that of a chihuahua. I made my excuses and hastily staggered out into the streets. It may have taken me four hours to navigate the streets in a daze, but hey, at least I can say I only fuck dogs when I'm drunk.

Anyway, the roundabout point I'm trying to make has been lost, so I'll get back to talking about the movie's problem making references to the characters being really rather young, even though they're really rather not.

Mimi and Roger's first meeting is played out in the rather catchy song Light My Candle. I typed Lighty My Candle just then and thought about making some joke about it, but no. Now, despite the song being entertaining, there is one rather questionable exchange between Roger and Mimi when they get onto the subject of Mimi's stash of drugs:

ROGER: Why don't you forget that stuff? You look like you're sixteen.

MIMI: I'm nineteen -- but I'm old for my age

Jebus, Rosario Dawson is hot and all, but if her character in this movie is old for 19, then being in my mid-20s I must look the attic version of Dorian Gray. Remind me never to consult the mirror on the wall to ask who might be the fairest of them all. Got a feeling it's no longer this honey. However, the song Light My Candle also contains this fine lyric:

MIMI: They say I have the best ass below 14th street. Is it true?

Yes, Rosario, yes it is.

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