Eviction (Contains SPOILERS for the film Rent)

I'm totally not a fan of Rent.

More on this later.

EDIT (or, More):

After sleeping on it, I feel better about Rent than I did when I first arrived home. I think elements of its execution bothered me more than its actual content did, although I do have some bones to pick there, too.

First of all, I think Chris Columbus was a poor choice for the film's director. Some nuggets from the Columbus oeuvre include: Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Nine Months, Stepmom, and two Harry Potter films (the "light" ones).

I want you to think about poverty, homelessness, and AIDS. Could you imagine Mrs. Doubtfire spearheading an anti-eviction rally? How about Chris from Babysitting moving from blues-bar crooning to bare-midriff pole dancing?

No, me either.

The biggest problem with Rent is that, in terms of production value and innovation, it's about as fascinating as something you could see on VH1. The extent of Columbus's ingenuity in translating from stage to screen extends as far as....flashbacks to other times or places while people sing. Oh, and some people vanish during a song—you can't easily do that on a stage. But by and large, Rent feels like a two-bit taping of a stage show from 8th row center——there isn't much about this that you can't duplicate on a stage (or wasn't already staged in Rent's original incarnation). What a waste of time and resources to take what is probably a wonderful and innovative stage show and record it onto digital video.

That said, I was also disappointed by a few things inherent in the story. I've never seen Rent on stage, so this was my first encounter with it. I'm assuming it was faithfully transposed from stage to screen, but naturally I'm not sure. First of all, it was disappointing to me that this story concerns poor people on the verge of homelessness who are devastated by AIDS, corporate dishonesty, and heartbreak, yet for all intents and purposes this film could be described as a two and a half hour Noxema commercial: everyone is very beautiful and NOBODY IS SUFFERING FROM ACNE. It's true—by the end of the film Angel begins to look a little thin(ner) and shows (gasp!) KS lesions, but that's all.

And while we're on the subject of Angel's death: let's define anticlimax. Although I normally get pretty irritated with the benevolent-drag-queen shtick (see also: Too Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar et al), I could buy into the character of Angel, and so, for that reason, I wanted Angel's death to have weight and resonance.

What I got was a fade out, then a funeral.

I get Rent, though. It's a story about the absolute pits of existence in the 90s, but it's about transcendence. I get that. But I don't like it. I don't like that Rent seems to imply that if we just pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and sing a peppy song, AIDS doesn't matter as much, or being a junkie can be kinda cute if she pretends her candle keeps blowing out, or if your song can ressurect the (nearly?) dead. I can't think of anything more bourgeois than being so blind as to think AIDS as a worldwide phenomenon can be transcended by love and friendship. It seems irresponsible to me.

My last problem with Rent is actually a problem with heterosexual America: after Collins and Angel sing about how much they love each other, they kiss. Someone sitting near me whined, "Ew!!"


  1. Charles, nice new header. How'd you do that? I'm not surprised about Rent's suckage.

  2. I am totally with you and I haven't seen it onstage either- I went with a group of vocal music theater students- they loved it/they hated it- all at the same time.

    Maybe it was because it was 10:45 pm before break (and some of them were returning college kids) but we did all cry and sing the songs all the way home.

  3. Charlie, I have not seen the film, but have seen Rent on stage twice. I actually heard the soundtrack first, and had it memorized by the first time I saw it on stage, after which I cried for nearly an hour with my friend Artie trying to console me. I don't think the stage version makes the subject matter as easy or peppy as you say the movie does. After I see the movie, I'll have more to say for sure.

  4. I agree with you on the film. I HAVE however seen the stage show and I think it is brilliant. When it first came out I fought the hype tooth-and-nail for those very same reasons you mentioned. But when I actually saw it, and listened to it repeatedly, I began to fnid the nuances that make it wonderful -- beyond the "oh, it's so bohemian" view of the HS kids (which is apropos since it's based on La Boheme). But yes, the film by Chris Columbus was exactly what I expected from him -- a nice pleasant family holiday movie.

  5. Sorry Charles, I can't agree with you on the film! First of all my expectations for the film were pretty high, moreso, I was hoping they didn't kill the audience that planned on seeing the play! I saw the play a couple years ago and loved it, but the movie kind of clarified some things for me! Granted it started off slow, but it did pick up! I prefer the play over the movie, but I can't afford to travel back and forth to NYC!