Rent (Chris Columbus)
The King Center was abuzz with a crowd that seemed to just get out of art theater rehearsals. That should have been the first hint at the mystery film behind the Mystery Screening at the Starz Film Festival. If I had taken a peek at what the hint was I wouldn’t have felt like such a clueless ass.
As the lights went down I think I actually heard squeals from the balcony, and after hearing it was the movie version of Rent I did my own inside voice squeal. The opening frame gave me chills as the lead characters, standing in a line on a Broadway stage, began their first song. Ten minutes later I realized the hairs were still standing on my arms.
I had the pleasure and honor of seeing Rent in San Francisco a few years after the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical opened on Broadway in 1996. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of musicals, the way they sing dialog that should really just be said, like, “Oh the phone is ringing, guess I should answer it,” or “Where did I put my keys?” It should be talking then a song, talking then a song. I’m cool with that.
Although there is a bit of that in Rent, the previous annoyance went right out the window. And seeing those original players from back in the day enabled me to relive what must have been a fascinating time. It was a brilliant move to use many of the original actor’s from the musical in this movie version.
I’m probably going to get jumped in the parking lot for saying this, but honestly, you will laugh, and you will cry. And you know why? Because the essence of this film is about life, its highs and lows, love, community and friendship, about the passion of art and its pitfalls, and just trying to get through it all one day at a time. We get all caught up in all the negative aspects of our day-to-day that we need to be reminded of what’s really important, and Rent does this with a tidal wave of talent.
Director Chris Columbus excelled as always with his craft, capturing much of what the original screenplay writer, Jonathan Larson, envisioned for his best and last piece of work. I’m sure, almost 10 years later, that from wherever he is, Larson is looking down fondly with what Rent has become and this next step to the big screen.
There are definitely some sobbing moments, but Rent is a huge celebration, and the people who saw the movie that night not only gave it a standing ovation, they joined in the closing chorus. That was probably the first and last time I will ever see people dancing to a song during the closing credits of a movie, and although I didn’t join in, I was glad they were celebrating the movie in their own way.