Harry Forbes, director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Office of Film and Broadcasting, has given a positive review to the homosexually-themed Rent.
Forbes, whose initial positive review of Brokeback Mountain two years' ago was subsequently modified by the USCCB, became the center of controversy earlier this month after the USCCB withdrew his positive review of The Golden Compass.
The 2005 movie Rent is based upon a musical of the same name.
The movie's plot follows the relationships between a group of friends who come together through New York City's East Village fine arts community.
Three of the eight main characters are HIV-positive, while a fourth named Angel is a transvestite street musician with full-blown AIDS.
One of these HIV-positive characters is Mimi, a heroin addict who earns a living as a stripper and a prostitute. The movie portrays some scenes of her performing in the club.
A second HIV-positive character is Tom, a philosophy professor who finds himself in a homosexual relationship with Angel.
Two of the other main characters include Maureen, a bisexual performance artist, who breaks her engagement to aspiring film-maker Mark in order to enter into a sexual relationship with Joanne, a lesbian lawyer. Maureen and Joanne will hold a commitment ceremony part way through the movie.
The only one of the eight friends to settle down and marry is Benjamin, who is often portrayed as the antagonist for "selling out" the fine arts community. In fact, the name "Rent" comes from Benjamin's attempt to fulfill his family obligations by collecting rent from the other seven characters.
Although Forbes admits in his 2005 review that the "film's subject matter may turn off many viewers," he nevertheless describes it as "a snapshot of a piece of cultural history — both the era depicted and the musical itself," calling it "an impressive achievement."
"The cast is superb," writes Forbes. "The original cast members wear the years lightly, while newcomers Dawson and Thoms fit in beautifully with the ensemble. [...] The dissolute, countercultural lifestyles of some of the characters take second place to the overriding themes of love, connection, dealing with loss and appreciation of life."
Sample lyrics to "La Vie Boheme", one of the musical's main songs, include the following:
"Bisexuals, trisexuals, Homo Sapiens, Carcinogens, hallucinogens, men, Pee Wee Herman German wine, turpentine, Gertrude Stein"
As well as:
It's between God and me
To S & M"
See Forbes' Review of Rent published by the Catholic News Service:
To express concerns contact:
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archdiocese of Chicago
155 E. Superior Street Chicago, IL
60611 312-751- 8200
This article is a special report to Lifesite News by Pete Vere.
Vere is a canon lawyer and co-author of "Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children's Fantasy" available at http://www.atheismforchildren.com/
As well as Surprised by Canon Law II (St. Anthony Messenger Press)