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"Maybe we should just spit on them."

© 2005, Columbia Pictures
All Rights Reserved

As far as movie remakes of musicals go, the success of this one is easy to calculate -- it's measured in love: The love of die-hard "Rent" (IMDb listing) fans that is. For those familiar with the musical, the film does not disappoint, and for those who have never seen it, the cult following of this "rock opera" is about to expand.

Set in the East Village in New York City, this film is about bohemian life in modern day America. Struggling to come to terms with their dreams and find their place in society, a group of friends lives together in an apartment complex. They're united by one bond: their inability to pay rent. Mark (Anthony Rapp) is a wannabe documentarian whose roommate Roger (Adam Pascal) is a musician trying to write one great song before dying of AIDS. The pair, along with their friends (an ensemble cast that includes Rosario Dawson, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Tracie Thoms and Taye Diggs), tries to understand all the changes that take place in one year as they deal with love, loss and the discovery of what is real in modern day life.

Perfect timing for the holidays, this story is pure and powerful and reminds people that the people in your life defines you. It is easy to get caught up in the daily routines of life, where you work non-stop to meet the demands of living, a.k.a. paying rent. In actuality, it is the day-to-day interactions with your friends and loved ones that are essential. This film identifies the importance of personal vs. financial security and proves you can't put a value on love.

Based on Jonathan Larson's award-winning show, the film adaptation of Rent connects with audiences on a different level than the stage-version. This medium lends itself well to this story as it provides a coherency that is sometimes lacking on stage. Explanations of past events in the lives of the characters are shown on screen through montages and flashbacks, something that is impossible to do on stage. On the other hand, the power of seeing "Rent" in the theater is missing on film when parts of the songs are turned into dialog. Also, the eccentric nature of some of the solos performed by the characters is lost on-screen, whereas on stage the same numbers steal the show.

The entire cast offers a soulful and heart-felt performance, but Jesse L. Martin of "Law & Order" fame is far and away the best. He weaves song and dialog together effortlessly and, along with Wilson Jermaine Heredia, offers a genuine and compassionate portrayal of a person coming to terms with living and dying.

Overall, director Chris Columbus stays true to the heart of the stage production and "Rent" fans will leave satisfied that their beloved story did not fall victim to Hollywood conventions.

Filmfodder Grade: B+

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