Rent is a 2005 film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name. It details the struggles of a group of young friends in the East Village area of New York City in the late-1980s, early-1990s. The film, directed by Chris Columbus, had six of the original Broadway cast members reprising their roles.
After an introduction with the cast singing "Seasons of Love", the film opens on Christmas Eve, 1989, with apartment tenants (including two friends and roommates, Mark and Roger) expressing their anger at suddenly being asked to pay the rent, which had previously been waived by their friend. Tom Collins (also known as Collins), a former roommate of Mark's and friend to both Mark and Roger, returns from out of town and is attacked by three men and left for dead in an alley ("Rent"). Benny, the landlord and former roommate of Mark and Collins, who has married into a wealthy family, offers to give Mark and Roger free rent again if they can convince Maureen (Mark's ex-girlfriend) to stop her protest. The protest is to take place at Maureen's performance space, which Benny is planning to turn into a cyber-studio ("You'll See"). Angel Dumott Schunard, who is an HIV-positive drag queen and drummer, meets Collins, who is also HIV-positive, in the alley. It is implied that these two characters are romantically interested in each other. Later that night, Roger mourns the loss of his girlfriend April, who committed suicide after learning that she was HIV positive, and sings of his desire to write one lasting song before his own death from AIDS ("One Song Glory"). Mimi, a nightclub dancer addicted to heroin, enters Roger's apartment and flirts with him ("Light My Candle").
The next morning, Collins bursts in yelling, "Merry Christmas, bitches!" After they ask him how he managed to buy the wine he gives them, he tells them he met his love. Angel enters and tells them she made $1000 by drumming on a plastic bucket to make a dog (an Akita named Evita) jump off a 23-story building. "And as sure as I am here, that dog is now in doggy hell..." ("Today 4 U"). Angel invites them to join her and Collins at a meeting at a local community center. Roger declines but Mark accepts, telling them he will be there after he goes to help Maureen, who had previously called and asked for help with a technical problem. Mark goes to help Maureen, only to meet Joanne Jefferson, Maureen's new lover. They talk about Maureen's "hobby" of cheating ("The Tango: Maureen"). He then proceeds to the Life Support meeting. While there, Mark asks permission from the support group members to film them for his new documentary. A man in the group talks about how he finds it hard to accept what they teach in the group, "but I try to open up to what I don't know, because reason says I should have died three years ago..." ("Life Support"). The movie forwards to a nightclub, the Cat Scratch Club, with Mimi performing a song and dance routine, singing of her desire to go out and have a good time before her life ends ("Out Tonight"). She barges into Roger's apartment through the window, where he gets angry with her for intruding and throws her out ("Another Day").
The next day, Mark asks Roger if he wants to go to the support group meeting with him, but Roger declines. At the meeting, the people begin to question how their lives would continue now that they have the AIDS virus ("Will I?") During this, Roger joins the group, much to Angel's, Collins', and Mark's joy. On the way back to their apartments, the four friends find a homeless woman being abused by a police officer and they aid her (on film), only for her to reprimand Mark for making a name for himself on film using her life. On a subway train, they talk about leaving New York and going out to Santa Fe and opening a restaurant ("Santa Fe"). After the subway ride, Mark and Roger go off to help Joanne at the lot where a protest Maureen is staging will take place. Walking down the streets, Collins and Angel express their love for each other in song and Angel buys Collins a new coat ("I'll Cover You").
Maureen's protest happens later the same night ("Over the Moon"). Benny has put the police on standby, which proves to be a mistake on his part. There is a riot, which causes Maureen to get even angrier with him. The same night at the Life Cafe, everyone meets up. Mark reveals that he got the riot on film and sold it to the news and how the show Buzzline wants to put it on their show. Benny tells everyone that he is sorry (with the unmoved Maureen telling him to "go to hell" and another character calling him a 'jerk') and that the reason his wife was not there was that there was a death in the family. It turns out to be his dog, an Akita. Mark and Roger face each other and exclaim "Evita!" This later will help secure the bond with Benny and those living in his apartment. Benny tells the group that they need to grow up and start being responsible and questions them if they really want to continue living like they are, leading to more-or-less of a riot, with the characters shouting out what inspires them, starting with Mark saying a eulogy for 'dead' Bohemia. Maureen and Joanne disgust Benny and the other men. ("La Vie Bohème"). Mimi's watch timer goes off, signaling her next AZT dose and thus showing Roger that she also has HIV. Roger and Mimi express their love for each other outside the cafe, sharing secrets and fears for the first time ("I Should Tell You"). The two re-enter the cafe and celebrate their newfound relationship as the celebration continues ("La Vie Bohème B").
The gang celebrates the New Year together, with Mimi vowing to give up her drug habit and go back to school. However, they are locked out of their apartment, so Angel breaks the padlock with a garbage can. They enter, only to find that all of their things are gone.
Joanne serves as Mark's lawyer, they sell his footage to ‘‘Buzzline’’, and he negotiates a job there. He will be paid $3,000 per segment. During their conference with Alexi Darling, the Buzzline supervisor, Joanne sees Maureen flirting with Darling's secretary. Outside, after being scolded by Joanne, Maureen proposes to Joanne, and Joanne accepts. At their engagement party, Maureen flirts with yet another woman, this time the caterer. Angry, Joanne threatens to leave her, while Maureen becomes angry with Joanne for "making" her be too monogamous ("Take Me or Leave Me"). They then walk out on each other. Back at the loft, Benny has returned all of Roger and Mark's things, and offers to keep his promise about letting the gang stay there free. Mark refuses his "charity," and pays Benny with his advance check. It is revealed that Mimi later had dinner with Benny and he had changed his mind about evicting them. Roger finds out, and believes that she is cheating on him with Benny. Mimi resumes her drug habit and falls into a state of despair. A montage of scenes depicting the passage of several months includes scenes of Mimi and Roger's relationship struggling because of her drug addiction, the support group meeting as some of the people in the chairs fade away one by one, symbolizing their deaths. Angel gets progressively sicker and eventually dies ("Without You").
The next scene is Angel's funeral in a large church. Collins sings the song that he and Angel sang together ("I'll Cover You (Reprise)"). After the funeral, Roger and Mimi argue about their past relationship, as do Joanne and Maureen. In their argument, Roger reveals that he has sold his guitar, bought a car, and is planning to leave for Santa Fe ("Goodbye Love"). At the end of "Goodbye Love" Joanne starts to cry. Maureen steps forward and wipes away her tears.
After Roger arrives in Santa Fe, he discovers that he still loves Mimi, cannot stand to be away from her, and decides to return. During this time, Mark decides to finish his own film and quits his job at Buzzline ("What You Own"). However, after Roger returns he finds out that Mimi has quit rehab and has gone missing. On Christmas Eve, the year after everyone met, Joanne and Maureen find her at a park. She had been living on the streets ("Finale A"). As she is about to die, Roger sings the song he has been writing over the last year ("Your Eyes"). Mimi is near death, but regains consciousness and says, "I was heading toward this warm, white light. And I swear, Angel was there... and she looked good! [Collins laughs.] She said, 'Turn around, girlfriend, and listen to that boy's song.'" The six friends perform the finale and Angel's Voice is heard throughout the song joining in. During the last song Mark's documentary is shown ("Finale B"), entitled "Today 4 U: Proof Positive" (named after the song Angel had sung) with the last frame being Angel, out of his drag queen persona, giving the camera a small smile.
Until 2001, Spike Lee was to direct the film for Miramax. However, budgetary constraints and Lee's insistence on engaging celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Brittany Murphy stalled the project for a time.
In October 2004, Revolution Studios recovered the project, with Chris Columbus as the director and Columbia Pictures as the distributor. Columbus, himself an NYU student and graduate at the turn of the 1980s, and in the location where the musical and film are set, felt a connection with the characters and their experiences. He can actually be seen in the beginning as an irritated driver who finds his car windshield being washed.
The first trailer for the film featuring the song "Seasons of Love" surfaced on various Rent fan sites in early June 2005. The trailer was said to be shown before the films Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Crash in select cities beginning June 3 2005. MovieMusicals.net reported that the trailer would officially be released June 7 2005, exclusively on America Online; the movie's official blog announced it would also air during the June 7 episode of Access Hollywood.
A second trailer was released on August 25, 2005, which featured some dialog from the film as well as music from the second part of the finale ("Finale B"). A third trailer aired during the September 2005 season premiere of Nip/Tuck, which contained new footage set again to "Seasons of Love."
In the UK, the film was rated 12A by the BBFC.
In Ireland, the film is rated 15A by the Irish Film Classification Office on account of the scenes of hard drug use, a mugging scene, and some sexual references
In Australia the film is rated M.
The film earned $10 million in its opening weekend, before going on to gross a total of $31 million US at the box office, short of recouping its $40 million dollar budget. Despite this, the film has since earned a cult following.
Many of the original songs from Broadway were cut in order to add dialogue to the film and make the flow of the plot seem more natural, whereas on Broadway, it is a rock opera with very little spoken dialogue. Songs which appear in the musical but not the film include "You Okay Honey?", "Christmas Bells", "Happy New Year A & B", "Contact" and "We're Okay" along with "Tune Ups #1-3" and all of the answering machine messages ("Voice Mail #1-5"). Sections of other songs were turned into spoken dialogue, including "You Okay Honey?", "Happy New Year A & B", the entirety of "On The Street" and all "Tune Ups" and "Voice Mail". A solo by Mark, "Halloween", was filmed, but cut because it did not "fit in with the pacing" of the film. "Goodbye Love" was filmed in its entirety, but the second half was cut from the film because Columbus considered it somewhat of an emotional overload, as he stated on the DVD's commentary track. Both scenes are on the second disc of the DVD set as special features.
There were three other deleted scenes featured on the DVD. One is an extended version of the scene just before "Without You" where Mimi, Roger, and Benny have an intense argument, and Angel graciously tries to calm them down only to accidentally imply that he may have been involved with the death of Benny's dog. This scene was cut because Columbus did not want to dwell on Mimi & Benny's relationship at that particular moment. Another is a small scene right before the second part of "Goodbye Love" where Benny pays for Angel's funeral; Collins tells Benny that he just paid for the funeral of the person that killed his dog, but Benny reveals that he was aware of this and expresses dislike for the dog. The scene was cut because it was a humorous moment that took the "tension" out of the preceding scene. The final deleted scene is where Roger meets Benny at the Life Cafe and learns that Benny just wanted to be a friend to Mimi, who still loves Roger.
The movie includes a scene of an engagement party (hosted by Joanne's parents) between Maureen and Joanne that culminates in the song "Take Me Or Leave Me" and the breakup of Maureen and Joanne's relationship. In the original musical, there was no engagement party scene, and the fateful argument between Maureen and Joanne took place while the two of them were rehearsing for another protest. In addition, in the film, Joanne's parents and Maureen's parents are shown, with Joanne's father giving a toast to Joanne and Maureen. In the musical, Joanne's parents are heard and seen in a spotlight (Voicemail #2) and Maureen's parents are never introduced.
In the musical, Benny padlocks the apartment building immediately after the protest, and the friends spend New Year's Eve trying to break back in, with Joanne, Maureen and Mark breaking through a window while Angel uses a blowtorch to break the padlock. In the movie, the building is not found to be padlocked until New Year's Day, with Angel breaking it with a garbage can. In both scenes, Benny arrives shortly after and restores the power.
In the song "Out Tonight" from the film, Mimi states, "We won't be back before it's New Years Day!" while in the musical Mimi states, "We won't be back before it's Christmas Day!" This is because Act I of the musical takes place over the course of one night, and in the movie is over three days. Similarly, before "Today 4 U," in the movie, Collins sings, "Gentlemen, our benefactor on this Christmas Day/Whose charity is only met by talent, I must say" while in the stage version, it is "Gentlemen, our benefactor on this Christmas Eve/Whose charity is only met by talent, I believe" once again because of the time span changes.
The film also leaves ambiguous the death of Roger's girlfriend April, who dies before Rent begins. In the film, she is seen reading a doctor's report that she is HIV positive; it is stated that she has died, but nothing more is said. In the stage version, Mark explicitly states that April committed suicide by slitting her wrists in the bathroom.
The song "You'll See" occurs after the titular piece "Rent" in the movie version, while it appears after "Today 4 U" in the musical. This is because Chris Columbus wanted Benny to be involved in the story earlier.
In the musical, the audience does not see Maureen until the finale of Act I where she rides in on a motorcycle. In the movie, however, she is first seen in Tango: Maureen when Mark and Joanne dance and see her cheating on Joanne.
Finally, the film opens with the song "Seasons of Love", whereas Act II starts with it in the musical version.
Rent was released on DVD in the United Kingdom (Region 2) on August 14, 2006, in dual-layer 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen format (rated 12 by the BBFC). The "making of" documentary is not available for this version; instead, there are trailers for other Sony Pictures DVDs (such as MirrorMask and The Producers).