Puccini's opera La Bohème inspired the Broadway musical Rent and on the big screen, director Chris Columbus stays true to the precedent of grit over glamour. Unfortunately, he fails to achieve any real sense of pathos with his soft-rock treatment of drug abuse, AIDS and single-sex relationships. Fans of the show may feel differently, but most will find this a maudlin, meandering trawl through New York's bohemian community with few compelling performances besides Rosario Dawson's turn as a heroin-addicted stripper.
Lead players Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal enjoyed success on stage as roommates faced with eviction, but neither has any great charisma on screen. Pascal mooches around like a bargain basement Jon Bon Jovi crooning about his battle with smack and the death of his girlfriend to little effect. Meanwhile Rapp nurses his fragile ego with dreams of becoming an important documentary filmmaker. However sympathy lies more with a homeless woman who appears briefly to scold him for his empty, self-indulgent liberalism. The irony is that this production reeks of the same sentiment.
"LIMP AND PASSIONLESS"
In case you're not suitably depressed by all the middle-class angst, it's backed by the homogenous sound of wailing guitars and boo-hoo lyrics. The choreography is a bigger disappointment, although Columbus at least opens up the action by taking it to the streets (as opposed to the frustratingly stage-bound Chicago). Three love stories - including duets for Pascal and an underused Dawson - feel limp and passionless, which is only exacerbated by the plodding script. Better to save your money for the mortgage than waste it on Rent.