"Does Anybody Here Have a Gun? Will You Shoot Me?"
We did grow up. We grew up in a very different time. And we realized, not only are the ideals of Jonathan Larson's musical slightly suspect, not only are his characters straddling the line between three-dimensional and cardboard, but the feature length film based on his work sucks donkey balls. Now that we're working as hard as we can to put food on our table AND make art that we believe in, we can look objectively at this piece, see beyond the idealistic fog and examine the portrayal of "La Vie Boheme" that we fell in love with.
Let's face it, though, it helps to have a beer or four.
"(We Can't Pay) Rent (Because we Spent all our Money on Drinks)": The Rules.
DO NOT DRINK STOLI. Seriously, listen to me.
1. Drink for Title Drops. For easy mode, this means whenever someone says "Rent".
2. Drink when they drink. Happens every once in a while, not as often as you'd think.
3. Drink for Daddy Issues.
4. Drink whenever a character mentions something you enjoy. This is mostly for the "La Vie Boheme" section. Remember, if you liked this musical at any point in your life, you like their influences too.
5. Drink for pointless songs. Songs in musicals usually serve some kind of purpose. Not so in Rent.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink for Title Drops. For medium mode, this includes song title drops.
2. Drink whenever somebody mentions "selling out".
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink whenever someone mentions having AIDS.
The Fuzzy Masked Man: Resident Roger impersonater (Easy)
Seb: Plays piano. It'll be important later (Medium)
Champjagne AustGin: Will never lose her dignity (Medium)
Shirley Whiskas: Lit a candle fueled by her hatred of Mimi. (Hard)
We're gonna pay more than rent. We're going to pay...with our sanity.
Where do I Begin?
The cast knew this. The director and crew knew this. They all thought we wouldn't notice. We do.
Somehow when your protagonists are twenty five or thereabouts, we as audience members subconsciously excuse them of all their poor decisions and immature behavior. Okay, so they haven't paid rent for a year. So most of them are trapped in relationships that plainly don't work. So they steal things, break into private property, do drugs, refuse to get paying jobs because any modicum of success makes them sell-outs (drink!). That's fine. They're twenty five. They're still figuring things out. Mark's parents are still sending him hot plates for Christmas. They're kids.
All of that goes out the window when your protagonists are thirty. You start to wonder, shouldn't they have this figured out by now? Roger hasn't finished a song in over a year. Can he still call himself a musician? Mark struggles with the idea of filming anything that doesn't suit his vision of the world. Is he that much of a slave to his ideals? Can people really get away with living rent-free in a condemned building, without jobs, without food, making art PURELY for themselves?
Because that's really the issue here. Mark and Roger do not share their work with the public. Maureen puts on performance art that is all about herself. Angel kills dogs for cash. These people do not change during the course of the show, and they have NO INTEREST in doing so. They are stagnant. They have no effect on their environment. Being idealistic is admirable and should be encouraged, but you need to be able to adapt to whatever the world throws at you, and constantly be working to AFFECT CHANGE. Otherwise, you're self-indulgent, and that is death if you want to be an artist.
Dropping Titles Like They're Hot
The title drop rule is all you need. Especially when you add song titles in there, because Jonathan Larson believed that choruses should consist of the singer repeating the title of the song over and over and over again.
There's a main offender of this rule, and it's not the song you think it is.
Maureen and Joanne's relationship is clearly outlined and well presented, but the stakes of the relationship aren't really high enough for us to care when they fall apart. Collins and Angel are the most LIKABLE couple in the movie, but we don't really get to watch them fall in love. When Angel died, we were unclear if we were sad because we cared about Angel or because we were all wasted.
Other Things that Bugged Us
All That Being Said...
We also had a great time. We had the BEST time watching this movie, especially two or three beers in. Why? Because we still know ALL THE WORDS TO EVERY SONG.
Every once in a while, this would happen:
Someone: "You know, I think it's really fascinating that--"
Three other people: "EVERY SINGLE DAY...I WALK DOWN THE STREET...I HEAR PEOPLE SAY..."
Someone: "What I'm really wondering about is-"
Everyone else: "YOU'RE LIVING IN AMEEEEERIIICAAAA, AT THE END OF THE MILLEEEENIIIIIUUUUUUUM..."
We could not stop. And because most of us are trained theater performers, we didn't only sing along, we sang in harmony. THREE PART HARMONY.
So I guess what I'm saying here is, don't think I don't enjoy this musical. There's a reason it's so popular. It has a soul. It's a work of passion, taking a look at several important issues the lower class in 90's New York faced, especially the Queer and artistic communities. The feelings behind all these songs are real, and we feel them, especially when we're young.
Yes, it's dated. Yes, most of the characters are unlikable. Yes, the plot is often nonexistent or nonsensical. But it's fun. And the songs are beyond catchy. And it's nice to see some of your favorite performers on a movie screen belting out lyrics you used to sing alone in your room.
Idina Menzel sang "Over the Moon" LIVE on set. THAT'S AMAZING. They managed to get Anna Deavere Smith in this movie playing multiple roles. THAT'S BEYOND COOL.
There are parts of this movie that almost work! We are angry because this movie fell so short of our expectations. We really wanted it to be good. And it wasn't.
Drink only beer.
If you play this game with anything stronger than beer, you will be in serious trouble. If you really want to drink hard liquor, ONLY USE THE SONG TITLE DROP RULE. Even better, get rid of that rule entirely and only play with the other rules in the game. It is too much otherwise. Please believe us. We don't want anyone to get hurt by playing our games.
Some rules to replace the song title drop rule:
Drink when an actor does anything overenthusiastically.
Some actors are better at acting on film than others. It's clear that some of them just don't have the training, or didn't at the time, to be in a movie. It's not really their fault. Drink in commiseration.
Drink for changes made from musical to movie
There's a few of them. Maureen and Joanne tie the knot right before deciding to call it off for good. A change I enjoy, but others aren't as welcome.
Drink whenever Mark films something or we see something Mark has filmed.
Mark's role in the musical is the narrator and documentarian. This aspect is fairly well captured in the movie, weirdly enough, sometimes in very subtle ways.
Thank you all for reading. Join us next week for another movie and another new drinking game!
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