An energetic rock musical, Rent features one big number after another. Chris Columbus' movie version of Jonathan Larson's Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning big doozy rock musical took nearly 10 years to reach the screen. It focuses on the resilience of a new generation of oppressed "types," assorted victims of prejudice, poverty, addiction, and disease. Featuring six of the original eight stage cast members, Rent is beset by awkward transitions between numbers (song ends, fade out, next song), and exposition conveyed by lyrics. The performers sing their stories and desires, framed by cheesy hooks, sing-talking them when the language just becomes too cumbersome for crooning. (This device, too familiar from Andrew Lloyd Webber works, is either wearying or rousing, depending on your tolerance level.)
Still, Rent does offer up real ideas about class hierarchy. Everyone here is concerned with property -- intellectual, amorous, and geographic -- and no one seems able to work for money, save for Mimi, who spends it on heroin. Mark eventually takes a job with the "sleazy" tv tab show Buzzline, where he learns (as expressed in the song "What You Own"), "When you're living in America / At the end of the millennium, / You're what you own."