The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Rent (2005)

Like many of us, I lost friends inthe AIDs epidemic of the 80's.  "Rent," the film version of the smash Broadway musical, is stagy and preachy and a bit too convinced of its own enlightenment...and also a life-affirming, vital, important piece of film.  I love musicals, and about half the musical numbers work for me, which is a blessing.  The story of a group of penniless Bohemian would-be artists living in poverty in New York, it weaves between their relationships, dealing with the impact of death and love and hope and fear on the human heart.  This is a true musical--they don't disguise that fact as in "Chicago" (which I loved).  Here, people drop into song to express their heart's longing, their joy, their regret. And I hope the audiences will grasp and accept the gift, because "Rent" is just that.  I'm going to give it an "A" and then criticize it a bit from the other part of my brain.
O.K., here are my complaints.  Man oh man, was this directed and written by white guys.  Talk about sexual exclusion of heterosexual black men.  There were at least five black women visible in various scenes. All were with white men, or in one central case, a white woman.  Taye Diggs plays "Bennie," the upscale friend of the Bohemians.  He supposedly has a wife somewhere--we never meet her.  He floats around as a friend to Rosario Dawson (once again, for the umpteenth time, wriggling her wares around a white guy), but with no real visible human connections, utterly wasted (please remember that in film, all that matters is what you SEE).  I can't tell you how hard I had to work to stay centered when a love song was beautifully rendered, the only time I've ever seen a black man in a love duet in a major Hollywood film...and it was with a transvestite.  Once again, relegated to the non-breeding pool.  Sociobiological genocide.  Yuck.

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