Love Don't Pay The Rent. Or Anti-Retroviral Bills.
This film is disgusting. Not because it’s badly made or because it’s a musical, although normally either of those things would be enough to put me off my lunch. What’s disgusting about this film is the way it cavalierly treats the moral decline of Western culture, by focusing on a group of degenerates without even a whiff of condemnation. Essentially glorifying a lifestyle that is corrupting American culture, Rent becomes part of the political agenda of a group of people bent on subverting family values and seducing the youth to adopt hedonism and moral turpitude as a badge of honor. As evidenced by the 2004 election results, America is proudly determined to light a beacon of righteousness with which to lead the world, but yet still subversive elements are given free reign in the liberal media to push their deviant agenda, and films like this are proof positive of pop culture’s sickening disregard of the traditional values upon which this country was based. To put it simply Rent is a singing, dancing advertisement for the children of this nation to become degenerate, promiscuous, and disease-spreading scum, by glorifying and validating horrible, horrible loft people. Also a bunch of characters in the movie are gay and dying of cancer or something. I don’t know, I was too busy getting mad at all the filthy loft people to pay attention. I hate loft people. I hate them and their vegan co-ops, their Werner Herzog VHS collections, and their super-8 cameras. I hate their loft parties raising money to support independent art collectives, their dreadlocks, and their pigheaded insistence that vinyl is somehow preferable to CD. I hate that they don’t pay their phone bills, so students have to leave deposits when they get new lines, and I hate how they have fleas and somehow this is funny and not scary. Fleas carry the plague, people. The god damned plague. You can’t run the world on bio-mass energy and hemp clothes if your lymph nodes are so swollen they burst and you die of pulmonary failure.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Rent. Aside from the loft people, it’s alright, I guess. The trick in a musical is to justify the song and dance numbers in some way, which is becoming harder and harder now that the wave of independent American 70s directors sucked all the life out of filmmaking. Chicago did it by portraying the songs as dream sequences, which is a simplistic but effective device, but Rent does it by using the music as a metaphoric narrative device. The songs are not meant to be taken literally, but rather as representative of real events. When two lovers argue through an elaborate duet, it’s not meant to be taken as two characters suddenly and inexplicably singing to each other, but rather as a heated argument portrayed through the metaphor of song. It’s interesting and impressionistic, in a way, but in another way, it’s very gay.
However, there is a problem with the music in this film, and that’s that it sort of sucks. One could interpret that as a deliberate choice, given the subject matter of the film, but I think it’s more accurate to chalk it up to bad song-writing. And this isn’t because I hate music. I do, but I can appreciate and understand how it can be effective. And sadly, aside from that ear worm of a theme song, most of the numbers in Rent are weak. This is unfortunate, because they do not stop singing. I know this, because I kept trying to go to sleep, and every ten minutes someone would start either braying or bellowing some over-produced expository lyrics over a watered-down electric guitar lick, like Zakk Wylde on estrogen pills. The cast is solid, comprised mainly of the original Broadway cast of the play, with Rosario Dawson as a highlight as a junkie stripper, the illusion of heroin chic further solidified by the fact that her face looks like a paper bag pulled over a skull. I haven’t seen too many musicals, and certainly not many that I find morally objectionable, so I suppose that makes Rent distinctive, even if the songs do not.