Talent wasted in 'Rent'

December 02, 2005|By SUSANNE PEREZ

In the opening minutes of "Rent" we see the actors on a bare stage, singing their hearts out to an empty theater. The voices soar in thrilling harmonies as they sing about what makes up a year in one's life.

I think to myself, this is brilliant. Little did I know that from there it would mostly be all downhill.

For while "Rent," Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer-winning 1995 darling of the stage, has wonderful musicality and an enormously talented cast, the movie version only serves to highlight another case of style over substance.

Under the direction of Chris Columbus ("Home Alone") the film comes off as unoriginal and as contrived as an episode of "Friends," except they're living in much shabbier quarters -- and with HIV.


Set in 1989, New York's seamy Lower East Side is the backdrop for the story. Aspiring filmmaker Mark (Anthony Rapp) and faded rock star Roger (Adam Pascal) receive eviction notices on Christmas Eve.

Former roommate and landlord Benny (Taye Diggs) offers to let them stay if they can stop Maureen (Idina Menzel) from staging her protest performance piece. Why that is so important to Benny's partners is never made clear.

Maureen left Mark for Joanne (Tracie Thoms), a Harvard grad lawyer. In the amusing number "Tango Maureen" we learn that Maureen is beautiful but self-centered and has a wandering eye.

Mimi (Rosario Dawson) works at the Cat Scratch Club and flirts with Roger. Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia) is a drag queen who rescues former MIT professor Tom (Jesse L. Martin) after he's mugged.

The entire ensemble is made up of terrific performers, and all but Thoms and Dawson are original cast members.

With the exception of Angel and Tom, the characters don't seem fully dimensional. Just because you can belt out all your thoughts with show-stopping passion doesn't make them deep.

The ending, while heartfelt, adds a little cheese to go along with all that ham.

* SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

'Ice Harvest' twists into one cool movie

Harold Ramis has been an actor, writer and director in many classic comedies of the last thirty years. "Animal House," "Ghostbusters" and "Groundhog Day" are just a few of his credits. But his latest effort, "The Ice Harvest" takes a major turn to the darker side of humor.

Walking firmly in the comedy noir footsteps of the Coen brothers, this film resembles the murky plots of "Fargo" and "Blood Simple" much more than his previous feel-good movies.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles