Alright, let's wade into this toxic swamp. First of all, the original stage production was written by Jonathan Larson, who tragically died of an undiagnosed heart condition on the morning of the first performance of Rent. Sad as this is, it doesn't make his show any good and, if the show is anything like the movie- which I assume it is- it isn't good. At all. Once you get a little way into the film, you realize that Rent is a modernized version of La Boheme, in which "modernized" means done worse.
To begin with, let's face facts: Larson was no George and/or Ira Gershwin. "Seasons of Love" is as good as the music in Rent gets. The rest is forgettable or, if it's not, it's memorable for the wrong reason- being unforgettably bad. Here, for example, is a sampling of lyrics from the song "Rent":
And it feels like something's stuck in your flue?
How can you generate heat when you can't feel your feet?
And they're turning blue
The narration crackles and pops with incendiary wit
Zoom in as they burn the past to the ground
And feel the heat of the future's glow
Use your camera to spar, use your guitar
When they act tough, you call their bluff
We're not gonna pay, we're not gonna pay
We're not gonna pay, last year's rent
This year's rent, next year's rent
As for Mark... the very sight of this immature beta male triggers visceral dislike in me. He is, I think, the worst character in this film, and that's saying something. This is a big problem, because he, with his camera filming everything that goes on, is supposed to be our lens through which to view this story. But he's such an unlikable person that it is impossible to identify with him. In case his behaviour over the rent isn't enough proof of his character- or lack of it- we're given another example on Christmas morning. His mother calls to wish him Merry Christmas and he won't pick up the phone. He lets the call go to the answering machine; his mom wishes him Merry Christmas, says that his sister and her kids are there, and tells him that they all miss him and wish he could be with them. His father then gets on the line and a bit awkwardly, but sympathetically, commiserates with Mark over Maureen breaking up with him. After the recording ends, Mark sneers over the message left by his rube parents. He tells Roger that every time he wonders why he's living like this, he thinks what it would be like living with them, his voice filled with contempt when he speaks of his family. And this jerk is the guy we're supposed to regard as our everyman. Nope.
O.K., next on the agenda is discussing Collins and Angel, and I need to steel myself before dealing with more of these twits. So I'll tackle them in my next post.