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April 9, 2006

-- Movie review --

An inspirational 'Rent' rocks

By Laura Hubbard

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Film writers are letting teenagers down lately. Most movies coming to theatres now are directed toward a specific audience, whether by age or sex. Sure there are still the “family movies,” but even they have turned into young child and adult films, with not much left for the tweens and teens.

But a new Broadway musical recently hit the big screen and is now out on DVD with a story that can be enjoyed by a varied audience.

The 1996 musical Rent by Jonathon Larson, and based on La Boheme by Baz Lurhmann, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that year. Now Rent is a mind-blowing film that uses a twist of rock music to weave together an extraordinary and inspirational story.

I can relate a lot to Mark Cohen, played by Anthony Rapp. So many things are going on in the world around him and with his friends, yet all he can do is stand back amid the dust clouds, not sure how to help, feeling their pain.

Whether viewers can relate to Mark, the fight against AIDS and drugs, the discovery of one’s inner-self and sexuality or the complex relationship between friends and lovers, this film will touch many hearts.

Having seen only the film, I do expect my views to change after seeing it live on Broadway. Maybe it will just be an eye-opener for things I didn't catch during the film, even though director Chris Columbus and the cast worked so hard to fit their roles to bring one of Larson's dreams to reality.

After watching Rent countless times now, I no longer view it as just a movie. I no longer relate AIDS only to Africa. I no longer see myself as foolish for crying during it, not only at the times of devastating loss in the storyline or at a sudden death within the cast, but during the happy scenes as well.

This film is a real eye-opener for many viewers. It’s the story of a group of friends living in New York's East Village, struggling not only to survive, but also struggling with relationships, disease, addictions, and gangs.

We realize these things are all going on right in our own backyards. One of the opening lines, “How do you document real life, when real life's getting more like fiction each day?” (Rent, 2005) is very complex and is definitely a great way to start unraveling the story.

One thing that amazes me is how it doesn't seem like the actors are acting. They’re so good, and the story seems so real, unlike some other Broadway musicals.

Rent is not like other musicals, which I think might turn off a lot of people, nor is it only about people dying of AIDS, as a lot of my friends think. Like the well-known adage, “Don't judge a book by its cover,” look beyond what is seen on the screen, and relate it somehow to yourself. It will help you understand and appreciate Rent so much more.

This film is perfect for almost anyone over 10, as nearly everyone can relate to it, in some manner, which is something I really admire in Larson's story.

I would not suggest the film Rent for children under age 10 because of language and a few mature scenes.

At my school, there is an “unofficial Rent fan-club,” consisting mainly of our production and theatre groups, as well as a few “normal” people.

Most of us have the soundtrack, DVD, piano and vocal selection books, and a few of us have been lucky enough to see it on Broadway. I didn't know about the group of fans, or the movie, for that matter, until December, and now am, for lack of a better word, obsessed!

Not only is the story of Rent inspirational and amazing, but the behind-the-scenes story of the seven-year struggle to produce it and author Jonathon Larson’s own story.

I hope I’ve convinced you that you'll have to pick up a copy off the shelves yourself!

For more “Rent,”  get your hands on the following:

“Without You” – A  memoir of love, loss, and the musical “Rent,”  written by Anthony Rapp.

 "Rent" - The 2005 film based on the hit Broadway musical written by Jonathon Larson. Movie directed by Chris Columbus.



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