Saturday, December 03, 2005

Get AIDS and Live for Free on Avenue A.

2.9 Stars.

Last week, I tried to convince Drunk Erin to participate in a blog discussion about the film adaptation of Rent because she's the only person I know that has also seen it. However, she's been acting more batshit than usual, and refuses to discuss a movie that she feels was perfect in every way. Drunk Erin is obviously wrong, but this post is about the issues with the movie, not a Michigan alcoholic.

Like Malsta, I got to see Rent on Broadway for free. We were given complementary tickets because of our work with America Reads, which provided me with 25 urban streetkids to indoctrinate into the ways of Emma. Malsta quit after the first semester, but America Reads didn't update their records so she got to see it for free even though her official occupation at that time was eating Soy Crisps and watching Ricki Lake (R.I.P.).

I think Crazy Mego also came and behaved herself, though it WAS three years ago, so I may be wrong about that.
Unfortunately, Joey Fat One was no longer playing Roger on stage, so we got some random people that we'd never heard of. No matter. It was fairly enjoyable, though I tend to not really like Broadway shows unless the entire cast is composed of cats.

Dov'e Joey Fat One?

The movie version has its problems. I'm not a professional film critic by any stretch of the imagination, so that needs to be considered when you're digesting my opinions. I still maintain that my observations are correct, regardless.

The biggest issue with this movie is the actual story. It has great amazing badass songs, but the plot is absurd. The basic premise is that there are two friends living in the East Village/Lower East Side - for free, and now their "mean" ex-friend is making them pay rent. Mind you, he's not throwing them out, he's not telling them to pay the rent that they should have paid for the last year, he's just telling them they have to start paying it. Who the fuck would have the nerve to get pissed at a demand like that? You lived on the island of Manhattan FOR FREE in a loft studio that would run you about $2000 a month at this point. Maybe Jonathan Larson was assuming that no one would actually think that into this and would just listen quietly to the music, but the music is ABOUT NOT PAYING RENT. You can't just ignore that. So right off the bat, these people lost my sympathy.
Speaking of said sympathy, about 80% of the characters in this movie/play have HIV. Again, we're supposed to suspend disbelief and just feel sorry for these people because it's the winter of 1989, they don't have money to pay rent and they're going to die of AIDS soon. At least two of these HIV-positive characters contracted the virus from dirty needles while they were shooting up heroin - Roger and Mimi. I don't know why it takes the whole damn movie for these two to officially fall in love; clearly, they're made for each other.

You + Me + Dirty Needles = Us.

Throughout the movie, these people are popping AZT. In 1989, that shit would have cost an insane amount of money. How are they paying for that when they can't even afford their rent? My first thought was that maybe they're spending all of their money on the AZT so they don't have any left over for the rent. If that's the case, wouldn't that make an interesting song or something? It totally should have been incorporated into the story.

Another problem is with the character of Benny, played by the umber Greek God known as Taye Diggs.

Upon further thought, his head is too big. But that never stopped James Van Der Beek, right?
Insert picture of Dawson's enormous noggin.
At the beginning of the movie, we're told that Benny is married to the daughter of a real estate magnate who wants to take over the buildings in the neighborhood and make a cyber cafe or some such shit. Okay, fine. It's a pretty one-dimensional character, but I accepted that. THEN later on, when Roger goes off to Santa Fe to find himself (I know, aren't you throwing up in your mouth?), Benny is suddenly...with Mimi? What? Did he divorce the other woman? One doubts it, since he's still considered an outsider and still has the power to board up their apartment and shit. That really really needed to be explained.

See this piece of paper? It says that my character makes NO sense.

Also, some of the casting is a bit dubious. There's one big downside to taking the actors who played the same character on Broadway and putting them in front of a camera: some of them aren't Hollywood material and can't convey their character the same way they could in front of a live audience. Adam Pascal is an excellent example of this. He was nominated for a Tony as Roger about a decade ago, but he just seems really stiff and uncomfortable on a movie set, especially when he's being cast opposite a professional Hollywood badass like Rosario Dawson.
Speaking of Ms. Dawson, I had very mixed feelings about her role in this. I really like the original Mimi, Daphne Rubin-Vega, who some may remember as the sidekick of Kevin Bacon in Wild Things. She had a more gutteral voice than Rosario and looked more LES skanky than Rosario was.

Why did I have to get knocked up right before the movie casting for Rent?

Rosario was very good, but she was better in Sin City. Every syllable she uttered in that movie just oozed, "I'm a badass skank. What what." Not this time. Her greatest scene is the pole dancing in the Cat Scratch for the song "Out Tonight." But it was pretty obvious that she wasn't the original Mimi.

Now you're probably wondering why I gave this movie any stars; I've been pretty brutal up to this point. There are some very badass aspects to this movie. Number one is without question the songs. There's about 12 songs in this, and at least 11 of them are incredibly amazing. I don't personally like "Tango Maureen," but they made up for its lameness with a cool dance number to accompany it.

Some of the acting was great - Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Angel and Idina Metzel aka Mrs. Taye Diggs come to mind. I would totally nominate them for Oscars, but I have a habit of awarding nominations to at least one person every time I go to a movie, so take such comments with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, it was the opposite of Rosario's performance in that it was clear that they had been the original cast members on Broadway.

If his movie offers dried up, he could totally become a professional drag queen like Fink.

It's a fun movie, bottom line. Even though Jesse L. Martin is about 230 pounds and clearly doesn't have AIDS.

Update: One of my old chums from middle school has corrected an inaccuracy in my review - Joey Fat One played Mark, not Roger. I'm trying to figure out why I thought he played Roger, and I think it's because that Canadian Waste told me that. Never believe Canucks unless they're talking about hockey or Alex Trebek.


At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey emma,
alexis from your moravo days here. i had the joy of seeing nsync's joey in Rent on broadway a few years back. just wanted to point out he played Mark, not Roger. he was not exceptional and not terrible. the only notable thing was he had a HUGE booger hanging out of his nose the entire first half. being in the 2nd row i couldn't concentrate on anything else.

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Erin said...

I heart being batshit


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