Stephanie Zachareck has a pretty scathing review of the Rent movie on Salon. What is fascinating is that she has never seen the stage play. I have never thought of Rent as the defining theatrical event that many believe it is, but I still don't think it deserves the spite she gives it.
However, while initially put off by the review I caught on to one of her observations:
What's most disheartening about "Rent" is watching all these performers work so hard, for so little payoff: It's frustrating to have an ensemble of young actors who can sing and dance (among them the eminently likable Rosario Dawson, and Taye Diggs, who's wasted here), and to realize that this is the best material anyone has to offer them.
Rent always relied on the incredible energy and boundless talent of its exuberant young cast.
I remember seeing the stage show around 1996 and watching skeptically. It was a weird experience. The plot seemed contrived and trite and the songs were a little too pop-ish. But it was hard not to have been won over by the 10,000 Watt performance of these young thespians who could, (unusual for musicals) ACT, as well as sing and dance.
I have not seen the movie, but on one point I agree with Ms. Zachareck. I had exactly the same reaction at that time.... Is this the best that our country's theatre can offer them?