A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that given the nature of the subject matter, they might want to see it with their kids, or even before them, so that they can talk to them about the themes and the content of the film. After all, this musical features characters who are addicted to heroin, have AIDS, and argue with one another over class politics and property. Characters smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, smoke a joint, and appear purchasing and shooting heroin. One couple is lesbian, another is gay (one partner being a transvestite). Early on, a character is beaten bloody by muggers. One character pole dances in a strip club, others are HIV positive and one character dies of AIDS in a very sad scene. Peppery language includes two f-words, as well as other mild cursing (s-words, "ass," "damn"). But the eight protagonists are charismatic and committed to one another, which offers a healthy model of friendship and romance.
What's the story?
Based on the hit Broadway musical (which, in turn, was based on Puccini's La Boheme), RENT focuses on eight artist friends who struggle to pay their rent and contend with disease, addiction, and violence and love in a gritty New York City neighborhood. From aspiring filmmaker Mark (Anthony Rapp) to heroin addict/exotic dancer Mimi (Rosario Dawson), each character has their own challenges to deal with and demons to face.
Is it any good?
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 (Rosario Dawson), who spends it on heroin. Mark (Anthony Rapp) 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."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about drugs, alcohol, AIDs, ambition and the alternative family formed by these diverse friends. How does Tom and Angel's relationship serve as the primary model for unconditional love and loyalty? How do the reconciliations of quarreling couples (Joanne and Maureen, Mimi and Roger) show that trust can overcome insecurities and jealousies? How does the film show a class conflict between landlords and renters or squatters?
- In theaters: November 23, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: February 21, 2006
- Cast: Anthony Rapp, Jesse L. Martin, Rosario Dawson
- Director: Chris Columbus
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Musical
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material involving drugs and sexuality, and for some strong language.
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.