I’ll say this for Chris Columbus, he’s nothing if not a slavish devotee to source material. His Rent adhered to the original stage show in the same way that the first two Harry Potter films were a word-for-word version of the books. Which is not necessarily a bad thing if you’re a huge fan, but some people might find it tedious or uninspired. I’ll be honest, I disliked that style for Harry Potter, but loved it for Rent.
Rent is such a distinctive musical, with minimalist staging a la Our House, that even a fairly literal rendering for film requires some adjustments. My favorite is the use of stedi-cam and an almost human third-person perspective on the action. The whole thing was filmed in a way that made the characters and the city seem very much alive.
Finally, the music was awesome. As is my criticism of every musical, any idiot can get the signature song (Seasons of Love) correct, but a good production delivers on all the musical numbers. With a cast that includes 90% of the original broadway cast, including Adam Pascal, the movie Rent gets all the songs right. My favorites are La Vie Boheme (a reference to the source material for the play, La Boheme), The Tango Maureen and Rent.
There you have it. A glowing review of a Chris Columbus movie. Shocking!
Go see Rent, but be prepared, it’s very topical and political. And if you haven’t seen it on stage, listen closely as the dialogue and song lyrics whiz by at a break-neck pace.