Jonathan Larson wrote the smash hit Broadway musical Rent. How he got there is the subject of Tick, Tick … Boom!, the new film from Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Larson (Andrew Garfield) dreams of being a Broadway musical writer. His creativity is recognised by his close and loyal friends, but he is on the cusp of 30 and he hasn’t made it yet. The way he sees it time is running out. After all, Stephen Sondheim was only 27 when he had his first Broadway success. Perpetually short of money, Larson works in a diner to try to make ends meet. For the past eight years he has been writing what he hopes will get him his big break – a futuristic piece called Superbia. More recently, he’s even managed to get Sondheim on board as a mentor.
But he’s missing a key number in the second act and with barely days until his first run through in front of Broadway producers, he has a severe case of writer’s block. Further, he’s neglected his best friend and his girlfriend, Susan (Alexandra Shipp), who has a life-changing decision of her own to contend with. Through a mixture of dialogue and catchy tunes (the latter written by Larson), the story unfolds.
Tick, Tick … Boom! is a tale of triumph and tragedy. The music woven into the script by Steven Levenson presents a compelling and moving narrative arc.
Garfield (Breathe) is a bundle of energy in the lead, a dominant force. He acts and sings up a storm in a brilliant characterisation. Hes surrounded by talent too. Shipp (Shaft) is vivacious and down to earth as girlfriend Susan. Robin de Jesus plays Michael, his childhood friend and wannabe actor who ended up in advertising. de Jesus is totally believable as the sensitive and loyal buddy and sometime roommate. Vanessa Hudgens knocks it out of the park as one of two vocalists in Larson’s band, alongside Joshua Henry. Both have real presence. And let’s not forget Jonathan Marc Sherman as Ira Weitzman, the bloke willing to stick his neck out for Larson. He’s most credible.
Tick, Tick … Boom! is at times uplifting and buoyant, while never lacking in pathos. I felt the doubts and bumps … a sure sign the movie is presenting a slice of magic. I liked the way the material is handled, with Garfield showcasing his enormous range. I simply couldn’t turn away.
Tick, Tick… Boom! is streaming on Netflix now and is also in limited cinema release
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.