Last night, we were on our way to a special screening of Brokeback Mountain in Beverly Hills and we realized we would never make it on time, so we made a left turn and landed at the mall (The Grove), had some drinks, salad and mini-burgers at Whispers Lounge and then saw Rent.
To our fun surprise, our friends Lisa and David were there. We sat with them.
You know, we all liked it. I mean, it got bad reviews. And the entire staff at The Grove, while we were buying the tickets or getting them torn, would roll their eyes and say things like, “Good luck,” or “You really have to like musicals,” or “They sing almost like the whole time.”
Gay people tend to like musicals. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because we did so many of them as children. Maybe it’s because life was always so harsh that the idea of really warm, exuberant people dancing and singing in the street while hugging each other with downright acceptance seemed so appealing. Maybe we just like that kind of music. But there we are, all gay and happy when the overture begins. So Adam and I, gay babies that we are, were inclined to like this thing. And Lisa, as many people can attest, is just a gay man in a woman’s body. And David, well, he’s straight, but he’s married to a gay man in a woman’s body, so he gets it.
The actors were all too old for their parts. But remember Stockard Channing in Grease? Wasn’t she like 38? I didn’t mind them being too old. I was glad that the original cast got to do the movie. They understood what they were doing and they sang really well.
The direction was flat (Chris Columbus of Home Alone fame), but I sort of liked the straight forward, almost archival shooting of it. But then, I like Neil LaBute movies. Sure, it could have been way more interesting visually. But there it was. I can assure you, it was colorful. There was a big Fame-like scene where everyone danced in the street. There was a fun Hair-like scene with everyone dancing con brio up on a table. Obviously, Rent is the descendant in a long line of pop musicals “with an edge” ;)
The score is pretty great. I like pop. Especially this sort of musical theatre 1970’s-80’s type pop. The writer/composer, Jonathan Larson, has a great ear for very interesting harmonies and it was a pleasure to just sit there in a movie theatre listening to it.
The book, lyrics, well, they’re cheesy. The play was the same way. A bit jejune. A bit self-serious. If Mr. Larson hadn’t died so suddenly after completing the play, perhaps there would have been more tweaking, cutting, etc. But with reverence, everyone accepts the words of this musical. Frankly, I wish people could be more honest about the silliness and the melodrama, with maybe a bit of a wink. But nothing arch ever comes into play, here. Just angst, joy, heroin and AZT.
Go see Rent, if you are gay or like musicals or are married to someone who is gay or likes musicals. Otherwise, hold out for Brokeback Mountain, no matter what your leaning. Unless, of course, you can handle two gay movies this month, then try both: The urban singing one and the romantic cowboy one.