I saw Rent.
My friend Aimee and I used to mock it–“I gotta pay my reeeeeeeeeeennnt!” we sang. Though neither of us had heard a note.
We should’ve checked it out before making fun of it. Cheesy, for sure, but I was enthralled in spite of myself.
I went with somebody who was absolutely galvanized by it as a teenager. So it was a moving experience just in that regard, to be in on someone’s nostalgia, her long-dormant teen feelings being stirred up. But the movie was so fucking corny, it was difficult to keep a straight face and be respectful of her reverie.
I basically spent the whole film unable to suspend my disbelief–The actors playing fresh-young-things were in their mid-to-late 30s? The junkies and HIV postives looked like they just stepped out of a spa? If these people are broke-ass squatters, how do they afford AZT? And what the fuck–in the East Village of Cop Shoot Cop, Missing Foundation, and the Reverb Motherfuckers–are these people doing, singing this corny Broadway music?
And the drug stuff. So the recovering addict is drinking vodka? (Big product placements for Bombay Sapphire and Stoli) And his friends encourage him to date a girl who’s still getting fucked up? There were other details that bummed me out as a guy who did drugs in the East Village in 1990: heroin comes in little glassine bags, not tiny ziplocs. The heroin was really strong and pure at the time, us youngsters didn’t use needles but sniffed it. (What better signifier for somebody on Bad Drugs–as opposed to weed and vodka–than needles and tourniquets?) Not that the filmmakers would touch this with a ten-foot pole, but the drug dealers were Latino kids named Flaco and black guys in Cross Colors suits, not some dude in a leather jacket from central casting.
(I realize that’s hair-splitting, that no artist is beholden to anybody’s memories, or bound to the absolute details and facts. I was one of those kids in the E.V. They’re kind of telling my story–at least, the tale of my milieu–but they don’t owe me anything.)
OK. And yet. I was totally moved by the music and the movie. I spent much of it on the verge of tears. The arrangements were so corny, but those big soaring notes sucked my heart out through my nose.