The movie Rent is truly a work of art. It tackles so many social issues that encompassed the 1990s such as rebellion, homelessness, the AIDS epidemic, drug addiction, and sexuality. For me, the first time I watched this movie, it was one of the first few times I was exposed to topics like these. I think it’s important to learn about these issues and Rent does an amazing job of showcasing what it meant to embrace who you are and who you love, as well as the hardships during this time period.
Part of what makes the movie so amazing is that it was first a Broadway musical for 12 years. Not only does it follow the same story line as the play, and most importantly the same soundtrack, but also when it was adapted into a movie, all but one of the same actors returned to make the movie. Both of my parents have seen the play several times on Broadway, but if you’re like me and never got the chance, there is a 20-year reunion traveling production.
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DISCLAIMER: SPOILER ALERT (just a few spoilers)
The movie follows eight friends and their lives in Alphabet City, New York, NY. Mark and Roger are roommates who are both trying to finish their works of art throughout the movie. Mark is an aspiring film director who is working on a documentary about homelessness throughout the movie and Roger is a struggling musician recovering from drug addiction. Mimi is Roger’s love interest for the film. She is a young girl who has also fallen into drug addiction and dances at one of the clubs in the area. Maureen, played by the iconic Idina Menzel, embodies want it means to be a rebel against authority. She also broke up with Mark for a corporate lawyer named Joanne. Joanne and Maureen’s love story has its rocky moments throughout the movie, buy they embody what it meant to embrace their sexuality. Tom Collins, but his “friends call [him] Collins”, is perhaps the best character in the film. In my opinion, he is the most kind-hearted and genuine one of the bunch. Also, he and Angel are #goals. Their relationship re-instills hope in love for me every time I watch it. Angel is the cross-dresser that finds Collins beaten up in an alley and becomes his love interest. Benny represents everything that the other seven stand against. He is the authority coming to collect rent and puts on the façade that he does not care about the homeless in Alphabet City.
The movie starts out with a riot because the whole street can’t afford to pay their rent. Benny comes by and offers Roger and Mark a deal that if they stop Maureen’s protest, they won’t have to pay, but they refuse. As Roger goes back inside to the apartment, he meets Mimi and their love story begins. Collins was on his way to visit Roger and Mark but gets mugged on the way and Angel saves him and the plot regarding the AIDS epidemic is introduced.
Collins and Angel fall in love as they attend AIDS support groups and try to encourage Roger to also attend. Then the group attends Maureen’s protest that turns into a riot. They all meet up at a restaurant for drinks and Mimi and Roger tell each other they both have AIDS. Mark was late to the restaurant because he filmed the riot he then sold to a news company. While Maureen flirts with the assistant, Joanne helps Mark get a job working for the news company. Joanne is fed up with Maureen’s flirtatiousness and wants commitment, so Maureen proposes. At the engagement party, Maureen and Joanne sing one of the most iconic duets and end up calling off their engagement. Meanwhile, Angel has been getting sicker and Mimi has turned back to drugs. After a few more tragedies, Roger runs off to Santa Fe to finish his song. When he returns at the end of the movie, the gang realizes how much trouble Mimi is in and they try to help her.
I think the reason why this movie is so iconic is because of the music. The actors pour so much passion into their songs they either want to make you cry or wish you were friends with them. The songs “Take me or Leave me” and “I’ll Cover You” emphasize what it means to embrace who you are and your loved one should also embrace you are. “Another Day” and “Life Support” have my favorite quote from the movie and all of life, “Forget regret or life is yours to miss.” To me, this quote is about embracing every day and living life to the fullest.
[Photo courtesy of this site.]
I love this movie because I can feel the love and passion that went into this movie. It gives me chills every time I watch it or listen to the soundtrack (If I’m in the lib I’m most likely listening to it because it’s that good). Whether or not you love this movie as much as I do, I hope you find your favorite movie that gives you chills no matter how many times you press play.