As the song Seasons of Love literally opens the curtain, revealing lush spotlights highlighting a group of bohemians in New York dealing with their lives against AIDS and other social injustice, we are soon to be taken to a world of (another) disbelief: with such a promising material that makes the Broadway play in which the film is originated from is a hit, why the film goes downhill right after the compelling first 10 minutes?
Worse, having the original cast aboard, with the exception of Rosario Dawson, why the film seems a tad lengthy, and that’s not even compliment?
If we wish to draw the same line with the butchering treatment of The Phantom of the Opera last year, then we directly come to conclusion that it takes a specially gifted director to direct a musical adaptation, or it can also be said that those qualified to bring a stage musical into a big screen are the ones who are deft enough in understanding the complexity of stage, and able to bridge the gap of stage and screen.
In a snapshot, Rob Marshall and Baz Luhrmann fit the above description nicely, and so was Bob Fosse. On the other hand, Joel Schumacher failed to bring the magical quality of the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sacred opera, and this year, Chris Columbus follows in his step to the same miserable effect.
The problem Rent obviously has is that as a film, it does not give enough space to breathe. Similar to Evita where every single song is belting out one after another in many almost static scenes that may work on stage but definitely not on a big screen, we hardly relate to their yearnings despite desperately compelling performances from the cast. Whereas the concept might work for Umbrellas for Cherbrough, the effectiveness is largely credited to Jacques Demy’s adequateness in creating a pleasant-to-look-at atmosphere imbued in his colorful cinematography, something lacking in Columbus’s film which tends to focus on the slum side of New York.
Not that it bogs down the well-conceived story, but rather, the lack of rich variety in the look of the film is another questionable quality of Columbus who previously gained acclaims in giving birth to Harry Potter series in almost gothic presentation, which works surprisingly well.
Alas, despite the tear-jerker moments derived from the original stage plot, the film might pull a teardrop or two, yet by the time we leave the theater, we will be left with a vague reminiscent that within Seasons of Love, lies a passing train, too fast for us to even notice the train’s passengers, who are more than capable in giving us a ride of a lifetime. Too bad we do not hop on it.