“There are times when we’re dirt broke, hungry, and freezing, and I ask myself, why the hell am I still living here?”
Rent, a 2005 film adaptation of the long running and greatly revered Broadway musical, is dark and heartbreaking but tells a beautiful story about struggling artists in rustic New York City.
Rent chronicles a year in the life of a group of young bohemians living in early 90’s New York City, struggling with relationships, AIDS and paying rent; trying to make a life for themselves. The story reveals a harsh reality of issues like drugs, homelessness and AIDS but demonstrates how the suffering and struggles of life make for emotionally raw material that can be told perfectly in beautifully crafted musicals just like Rent.
Much of the cast of the original 1996 Broadway production (save for the Joanne and Mimi characters) returned for the film. It’s filled with immense talent, most notably Idina Menzel who’s voice is a force to be reckoned with, as well as Anthony Rapp and Taye Diggs who were perfect in their roles.
The production design is done very well. Many shots have a look of being shot on a sound stage but for a musical like Rent, it works, staying true to it’s Broadway roots and giving an authentic stage feel. Director Chris Columbus did a wonderful job of translating Rent from Broadway to the silver screen and created an extremely enjoyable film that flows perfectly.
Though the story is bleak, the music, written by Jonathan Larson, truly makes the film. Tearjerking songs like “Without You” are balanced out by heartwarming ones like “Seaosons of Love” and crude and playful songs like “La Vie Boheme” and “Take Me or Leave Me” which add moments of joy to an otherwise sad story.
Rent’s message can be summed up in the lyric, and tagline of the film, “No day but today”. Many of the characters live with AIDS, not knowing when their life is going to end, giving them no choice but to embrace every days as it comes. Similarly, in the song “Cover Me” Angel sings “when they said you can’t buy love. Now I know you can rent it.” This has so much truth to it. It can be interpreted different ways but I believe it means that just as long as you’re on this earth you can have all the love you want, but you aren’t going to be here forever, tying it all back to Rent’s potent message to live for today, as if there is no day but today.