If it was released as an original film musical in 1989, Rent would've been a cultural landmark, a lightning rod for the era's big what-have-yous -- AIDS, the drag queen revolution, etc. Instead, it embodied the era almost a decade later as an original musical, and now almost two decades later as the movie musical currently in theaters. So it's all very kitschy in a snappy multiplex as 2006 draws near. The songs are as agonizingly catchy as ever, but they're hollow without live applause to stamp the appropriate exclamation point. And all the fade outs -- real buzz killers. Every other reviewer makes the same disclaimer, and for good reason: The cast is magnetic and should be parlaying their talents to new, exciting material; Rosario Dawson continues to be an intriguing screen presence.
But see Rent before you see The Ice Harvest, which is the worst movie I've seen all year (and I've endured Bewitched). I was duped by enthusiastic reviews and a funny trailer and the promise of what Harold Ramis and John Cusack could do together. The reviews are inexplicable, the trailer lies, and Ramis and Cusack made an unpleasant, bloody, gratuitous thesis on the woes of modern manhood. What a mess. The story and message of the movie belong in another dimension. Can I mention again that I'm flummoxed by the decent reviews? J. Hoberman praises its classical structure (Double Indemnity? Really?) and Desson Thomson calls it a "good time." I've had better times with diarrhea.