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Rent: overrated

Rent, the musical, debuted on Broadway in 1996. The original production won a Pulitzer Prize and four Tony awards.

After seeing the DVD, I am completely baffled as to why it won anything ever. It's one of the most overrated things that I've ever seen. I want my money back and I didn't even pay anything to see it.

I feel obligated to preface my opinion with the following information for those who have never met me in person. I did community theater for 13 years of my life, and every single summer, that little theater did a musical. I've been in The King and I, South Pacific, Oklahoma! and numerous other productions. Obviously, I don't hate musicals.

I also served as a counselor at an HIV clinic for a couple of years. I've been a supporter of gay rights pretty much since I was old enough to understand what being gay was. Obviously, I have no problem with the issues and relationships that are addressed in Rent.

That being said, my father, my mother, my husband and I all agreed that it sucked. My Dad left the room after about 20 minutes, and he made the best call. The three of us remained because we just kept hoping it was going to get better. Surely it had to get better, given how long it had run on Broadway, right?

Wrong.

I never cared about 99% of the primary characters in this movie. They seemed to be thin, two-dimensional stereotypes: the musician, the wannabe director, the stripper, and so on. None of them seemed to have any depth at all. The lyrics for the music often seemed stilted and the performances forced. This was the original cast, with the exception of two members? I would've expected these people to be very convincing, given their familiarity with the material, but the whole thing was very flat. The love story between Mimi and Roger? All of a sudden because he found out that she's HIV+ he's willing to get involved with her? She's still a junkie, which, according to previous information, was what put Roger off her in the first place!

I also disliked seeing life with HIV reduced to such stick figure sketches, even though the support group scene was one of the few things in the film that I think they got somewhat right.

And it was loooooooooooooong. Two hours and 25 minutes long. Contrast that with Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was staged just three years after Rent's debut: it was just as offbeat, had better music, and its film version was only 95 minutes long.

The dialogue was often cliched and trite. When Mimi returns from the edge of death to say:

"I was moving towards... this warm, white light. And I swear... Angel was there, and she looked good. And she said, "Turn around, girlfriend, and listen to that boy's song."

Ye gods, the cheese. The sheer cheese. And the song was crummy.

The music should've saved it, but it didn't. I only found a few of the songs to be memorable. "La Vie Boheme," which was supposed to be the big dance number, seemed mediocre at best.

I talked to my sister about it. She's seen the live show twice. She said the first time it was terrific, and the second time it was terrible.

She made a few points, and I'll repeat her words here:

1) The original cast may actually have been a problem here. When they started these roles ten years ago, they were twenty-somethings. They're now thirty-somethings. The naivete that can work on a 19-year-old who is young and stupid just doesn't play as well on thirty-somethings who are old enough to know better.

2) The musical apparently has a lot more audience interaction. This may not sound all that meaningful, but I've seen the live production of Cats, and I don't think it would film well. It's like seeing Cirque du Soleil live instead of on DVD. You miss a lot of the experience. Still, I don't see how getting to moo really makes a significant impact (yes, she mentioned that she got to moo).

Even if I concede these two points, though, I don't see how the actual content is going to be that much better. I found out just now that producer Robert de Niro wanted his friend Martin Scorsese to direct, but Scorsese turned him down because he didn't like the drafts of the screenplay that he saw. I agree with Marty's instincts, here.

D. made the point that some people might have felt like they had to say that they liked it in order to show support for "the cause." I don't know about that, but I can tell you that just 'cause it's gay doesn't automatically make it good.

My sister says that it seems to be one of those things that you either love or hate. I was very disappointed, so I guess I'm in the latter group.

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