#REVIEW: “TICK, TICK…BOOM!”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
The year is 1990 and Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield) is waiting tables at a New York City diner. He is years away from creating the musical masterpiece RENT, and is stressing out over the musical he is workshopping in the coming days. He needs to come up with one more song, just as his love life starts falling apart and the entire artistic community around him continues being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic.
That certainly does not sound like the most uplifting material for a musical and I was truly frightened Lin-Manuel Miranda had bitten off more than he could chew for his feature directorial debut. Within minutes of TICK, TICK…BOOM! starting however, I felt at ease. Miranda instinctively understands the language of Cinema and uses his background in theatre to expand his musical canvas wonderfully. This is not just Actors singing on brightly-lit stages so much as it is a living, breathing musical about the cost of following your dreams. He enhances the look and feel of every musical number, and does not let his confined sets stifle his creativity nor his blocking and camera framing. I have been asked not to spoil some of the more elaborate moments he works into the Film (such as a sequence involving multiple cameos from Broadway heavyweights, including himself), but suffice to say, theatre buffs will be very pleased with what Miranda has put together here.
Having no knowledge of TICK, TICK…BOOM! prior to watching the Film’s Trailer, I cannot speak to how accurate the Film is to Larson’s actual Musical. Knowing how reverent Miranda is as an Artist, I would guess it is pretty close – which would explain some of the stalling the Film does in the second half and how overdone some of the more dramatic scenes are. It does not drag itself out or feel as overstuffed as the adaptation of Miranda’s In the Heights was this past June, though there are some scenes that could have used tightening-up. And while this may not be Miranda’s fault, I feel like Alexandra Shipp and Vanessa Hudgens’ characters could have used more character development. I can appreciate that they both get a breakout moment to belt their hearts out, yet feel like they could have used an additional scene or two to better craft their non-singing performances.
Whereas Robin de Jesús soars as Larson’s best friend Michael and Bradley Whitford has a blast playing legendary Composer and Lyricist Stephen Sondheim, they both pale in comparison to Garfield. The Tony Award-winning Actor has always been an incredible on-screen performer and this is easily his best work to date. Period. He embodies the very soul of Larson, capturing your attention immediately and never letting go. He brings an unbridled energy to the role, and knows just what ticks and inflections to use. I love a great portrait of a Writer who cannot find the words to put down on paper (or in this case, lyrics), and Garfield captures that manic hysteria perfectly. And who but Miranda could have known he would be able to sing this magnificently?
I had my doubts going into TICK, TICK…BOOM! and rather thankfully, they evaporated all too quickly. Miranda has composed a terrific ode that honours Larson’s work and acts as a lovely blast of fresh air for a genre that refuses to go away. Couple that with a brilliant, Oscar-worthy performance from Garfield, and you have one of the must-see movie events of the season. Now excuse me while I listen to the Soundtrack for the fifth time this week…
TICK, TICK…BOOM! is playing in select theatres now and streams on Netflix starting Friday, November 19, 2021.