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tick, tick...Boom! - Movie Review

The artistic struggle brought vividly to the screen - with Music
An intimate, emotional, rewarding movie musical experience.
An intimate, emotional, rewarding movie musical experience.(IMDB)
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 3:56 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY)

tick, tick… Boom! is Lin Manuel Miranda’s feature film directorial debut. It is based on the late Jonathan’s Larson’s autobiographical musical.  It is an intimate, tumultuous, glorious journey of the struggles of a young artist who feels the pressure of turning 30, unaccomplished, undiscovered, and of course poor. It takes place in 1990. Andrew Garfield plays the dedicated, hardworking young Jonathan who will sacrifice anything for his art. Jonathan Larson won the Pulitzer Prize and Tony, for the trailblazing musical Rent, which played on Broadway for 12 years and would have made him a fortune in royalties. If he hadn’t tragically died right before it opened off-Broadway. tick, tick…Boom! takes place before Larson wrote rent and focuses on the period when Larson was preparing for a crucial workshop production for possible backers at the famous off-Broadway theater, Playwright’s Horizon.  The workshopped musical is called, Superba, and to my knowledge still hasn’t been produced.

Andrew Garfield who just won the Golden Globe for his performance here, does an excellent job as the passionate, messy, but hugely talented Larson. Energetic, intense, tortured, vulnerable and defeated, but tenacious and irrepressible, Garfield can also sing, and his natural charisma doesn’t hurt either. This is an intimate, immersive musical, focusing on the artistic process, and although it has some “bigger” numbers, those looking for a traditional “big” show may not enjoy it. Conversely if you are an artist, or have loved an artist, tick, tick…Boom! is a brilliant, realized experience of what being an artist is.

Alexandra Shipp plays Larson’s poor put upon girlfriend, Susan. A dancer, she has artistic dreams of her own, and is woefully dissatisfied with her relationship with Larson, who is too consumed with his work to be anyone’s romantic partner. He can barely pull off being a supportive friend to Michael (Robin de Jesus) who gave up his acting dreams to be a successful advertising executive and was recently diagnosed with HIV. Judith Light plays his eccentric agent Rosa Stevens and Bradley Whitford, in a small part, plays Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim provided a voice-over for a message on Larson’s voicemail in the movie shortly before he died. Vanessa Hudgens and Joshua Henry play two of Larson’s collaborators who play parts in the workshop presentation. For theater buffs there are dozens of theater cameos, many composers play themselves and there are several Broadway stars in at as well. Afterall, no one would say so no to Miranda.

Ultimately, it is a bittersweet experience knowing that Larson died at 35 from an aneurysm. What the film does do and does very well is highlight the harshness of an artist’s life, yet it celebrates artists as well. Larson’s inner drive, a force that he doesn’t even seem to understand, is evidence that indeed sometimes it is a calling to create.  It can be someone’s destiny, a choice they do not make.

Now Streaming on Netflix

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