November 19th, 2021
MOVIE: TICK, TICK…BOOM!
STARRING: ANDREW GARFIELD, ALEXANDRA SHIPP, ROBIN DE JESUS, VANESSA HUDGENS
DIRECTED BY: LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
For a new director to make his first piece of cinema a musical is quite the undertaking, but no mountain has been too high for Lin-Manuel Miranda to climb. Tick, Tick…Boom! is an ode to those that love musicals and I like to consider myself one of those people. But this movie is also more for the insider, the person that has been a part of that ensemble, or stayed up till 1 a.m. memorizing lines, had rehearsal the next night, and went out for drinks with the crew later. It’s also specific to the late writer Jonathan Larson, and because of that intimate appreciation for his work and the theater in general, some might love this more than I did. It certainly has mountains of charm, with a stellar performance from Andrew Garfield, but Tick, Tick..Boom! starts as a hot lit fuse that turns into more ticking and less of a boom.
The energy starts fast with the opening number “30/90”, with Jonathan (Garfield) sitting at the piano, lamenting about his upcoming birthday. The narrative structure is set up in the style of Larson’s stage productions split between telling his actual life story. His goal is to finish his masterpiece Suburbicon, a musical he’s been working eight years on, burning through ideas in a small studio in New York, living with his best friend Michael (Robin de Jesus), and trying to balance his attention to his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp). At the core of the story is the starving artist experience, where we learn about a slice of who Jonathan Larson was, a brilliant mind, crafting a new style of musical, something of his own that reached a peak with Rent, and all brought to life through Garfield. Sadly, this is a tribute to Larson, instead of a movie he could appreciate for himself.
I feel it must be said that the music of Larson’s is not typically the songs that I have gravitated to, especially Rent, which I have a great appreciation for, but lack in the melodies I love from, say, Stephen Sondheim. That’s a funny tidbit, because a majority of the narrative involves Jon crafting his play to present in a Broadway workshop, which includes Sondheim (Bradley Whitford) sitting in the back observing. In between the writing and the stressing it is the friends and relationships that deteriorate around him. Michael moves away from acting to find a steady job in advertising, while Susan becomes neglected, while looking to achieve her own goals. All of that is happening personally to Jon, while it being the 1980’s, where the HIV/AIDS virus is wreaking havoc on communities all around. Although the music may not always click for me, what is infectious is the collective cast, which reminds me why I love actors in theater, all pulling together to support the art and the artist.
The major factor for why I enjoyed Tick, Tick…Boom! is because Garfield’s performance is one of the best of 2021. The actor from Silence is not just embodying the man, but also making a case for a career in music, where his voice is genuine. He also has a charm, both in his smile, the choreography, and delivering dialogue. So why did I think Tick..Tick has problems? I left without singing or humming a single tune, something that cannot be said about In the Heights, which is still my favorite musical of 2021, while the direction from Miranda is undoubtedly his first run. There’s a lack of true style, where the camera falls on the editing to make it look cinematic, but that is also mistaken for a manic energy- something that becomes both exhausting and lazy in the end.
And with all those shortcomings I still think Tick, Tick…Boom! has enough to offer audiences. Broadway theatre aficionados will appreciate it much more, including a set piece which has a collection of cameos that will bring smiles to faces, while the major takeaway is that Andrew Garfield is officially the real deal of acting. He honors Jonathan Larson in a beautiful way, which is jovial, full of life, and a passion for musical theater that is infectious. Lin-Manuel Miranda keeps the heart of music beating, hopefully it’s a start, and not time running out. Tick…tick…tick…
TICK, TICK…BOOM! IS AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX THIS FRIDAY NOVEMBER 19TH, 2021
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady